Flu declared national emergency

Posted Wednesday, November 4, 2009 - 10:04pm

H1N1 and its symptoms are slowly creeping on the College of Eastern campus as more students are diagnosed with the virus. According to Brad King, vice president of institutional advancement, 17 cases have been confirmed with eight reported in the last two weeks, one suspected case reported new this week.

The Health Department is currently receiving H1N1 vaccine, but only in small quantities. Thus far the vaccine is only being given to children, pregnant women and health care workers, he said.

Dave Cunningham, director of the health department is hopeful that the next few weeks will bring sufficient doses to begin vaccinating the general population. Until the vaccine arrives everyone should continue to practice good flu prevention hygiene. Washing hands frequently, coughing or sneezing into handkerchiefs or sleeves, not sharing food or drink, and avoiding others with symptoms.

King said he doubts that the CEU Health and Wellness Center will get the vaccine but thought it would be available at the Health Department on Main Street in Price.

Last Friday, President Barack Obama declared the swine flu outbreak a national emergency, giving his health chief the power to let hospitals move emergency rooms off site to speed treatment and protect non-infected patients.

The disease is more prevalent than ever in the country and production delays are undercutting the government's initial, optimistic estimates that as many as 120 million doses of the vaccine could be available by mid-October, according to an Associated Press.

In another Associated Press article, nearly 5,000 people have reportedly died from H1N1 flu since it emerged this year and developed into a global epidemic, the World Health Organization said.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that H1N1 flu is more widespread now than it has ever been, and resulted in more than 1,000 U.S. deaths so far. There have been more than 20,000 hospitalizations in the U.S. and nearly 100 flu deaths in children.

According to data from the CDC, more than half of hospitalizations and nearly a quarter of deaths due to H1N1 are in children and adults under 25.

An article in Inside Higher Ed suggested that outbreaks of flu-like symptoms have peaked in most states in the Southeast, Northeast and Mid-Atlantic regions, while the Midwest, Southwest and Rocky Mountains are experiencing upticks in cases. During the week of Oct. 3-9, 5,959 cases were reported at institutions serving more than 3.1 million students, bringing the attack rate to 19.2 cases per 10,000, two percent higher than a week earlier.

The article cited Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, N.Y. as seeing H1N1 emerge in the last 10 days since a busy weekend that included major football and hockey games as well as a career fair. "We've seen these illnesses emerge after social events and other large events, just as we've heard would be the case," said Leslie Lawrence, medical director of RPI's Student Health Center.

Lawrence reported that seven students got sick from the same game of beer pong. Therefore do "not share drinks. Alcohol does not kill the virus or prevent it from spreading from person to person."

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