H1N1 arrives at Geneseo

Dr. Steven Radi, medical director at Lauderdale health center, has confirmed that cases of influenza-like illness, often referred to as novel H1N1 virus and "swine flu," have been identified on campus.

Though the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention no longer recommends testing individuals for the virus, Radi said there are, "Easily half a dozen cases that really fit the case definition for ILI."

He added that the seasonal flu is typically prevalent during the winter months and that those displaying flu-like symptoms at this time are likely carrying the novel H1N1 virus. "We're definitely seeing it," he said.

Geneseo is part of the American College Health Association Pandemic Influenza Surveillance program, which tracks cases of ILI at colleges nationwide. The program had tracked 87 cases in New York between August 22 and Sept. 4. In the same time period, the state of Washington reported 919 cases and Georgia reported 909.

Current numbers are likely much higher. A Cornell University junior died Friday because of complications from the virus, and officials estimate that more than 500 Cornell students have been diagnosed with flu-like symptoms.

"We're really following the CDC guidelines" in dealing with the spread of the disease, said Melinda Dubois, administrative director of health and counseling. She has been working with provost Carol Long to ensure that faculty are lenient in allowing students to stay home if they are feeling ill.

The health center has also been working closely with Residence Life, which has set aside rooms in which students can stay if they are unable to go home during a time of illness. CAS will also accommodate ill students with pre-packaged meals so that they do not have to use the dining halls.

"Most cases have been mild," said Radi, adding that many people can treat themselves by getting plenty of rest and fluids. However, he advised students with chronic medical conditions or those experiencing severe symptoms to make an appointment with the health center or call for advice.

Seasonal flu shots are being offered today from 1-4 p.m. in Milne Library, on Sept. 25 in the health center from 9-11:30 a.m., and on Sept. 30 from 1-4 p.m. in Milne. The college will also provide an H1N1 vaccine as soon as it is available, likely in early to mid-October.

Provided there is sufficient supply, Radi and Dubois recommended that all students receive the free H1N1 vaccine, which is a one-time shot and can also be administered with an intranasal spray.

Students were generally not alarmed by the presence of the illness. "It doesn't really scare me," said freshman Andrew LaHaise. "I think I'll just be more careful when washing my hands."

"It doesn't affect anything that I do, personally I don't think it's any different from regular flu," said junior Tyler Massaro.

"I've always been flu conscious because I have asthma," said junior Amy Ryan, noting that the spread of the illness need not cause panic.

The college has had a pandemic flu planning committee in place since the outbreak of H5N1 "avian flu" three years ago.

Symptoms of swine flu: Fever, chills, cough/sore throat, and possibly diarrhea, vomiting, body aches, runny nose, headache, and tiredness.

How to avoid contracting

influenza-like illness:

•Don't share anything that can have respiratory secretions on it. This includes all drinks, food, and utensils.

•Wash your hands very often. Hand sanitizer is available throughout campus, and automated dispensers will be placed in main buildings shortly.

If you think you may have ILI:

•Go home. If at all possible, try to stay at home while you recover. If you cannot go home, stay in your room; residence directors can help you and your roommate accommodate the illness until you are feeling well.

•Do not return to classes until you are better. It may take 3-5 days for a fever to subside, and you should wait 24 hours after that before resuming normal activities.

•If you must go out, use a mask to protect other people from the disease. 4,000 masks have been ordered by the college and will be distributed to residence halls; they are already available at the health center.

•Cover your mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing.

•Get plenty of sleep and fluid, and use antipyretics like aspirin or tylenol as necessary to relieve symptoms. Avoid antiviral drugs like Tamiflu and Relenza.

•If you are experiencing severe symptoms such as shortness of breath or chest pains, or if you have a chronic medical condition such as asthma, diabetes, or are taking immunosuppressive medications, seek medical attention.