H1N1 cases prevalent, vaccine delayed

The number of influenza-like illness cases reported at Geneseo has risen drastically since the arrival of swine flu on campus earlier in the semester.

Since the Center for Disease Control and Prevention recommends students not be tested for the illness, reported cases cannot be confirmed as swine flu. Lauderdale Health Center, however, has recorded about 125 cases of flu-like symptoms last week alone - a more than twofold increase from the nearly 40 cases seen the week prior.

According to a recent article in the New York Times, almost all new flu cases in the United States are of the H1N1 strain. Referred to more frequently by its colloquial name - swine flu - the strain has infected more than 1 million people and caused over 600 deaths and over 6,000 hospitalizations.

Federal health officials, however, have made a new vaccine called Tamiflu, available more quickly than was originally expected.

Dr. Steven Radi, medical director of Lauderdale, and the rest of the health center staff are urging students who have flu-like symptoms to call them so the incident can be recorded. Staff can also help students determine whether they should be treating themselves or seeking professional attention.

"One of the issues is anybody that has an underlying medical condition, like asthma or diabetes, says they have had symptoms for a long period of time," said Melinda Dubois, administrative director of student health and counseling. "We really want to see these students that are at high risk or are really sick."

Students who feel ill but have no underlying medical conditions should isolate themselves, stay out of classes and work with their professors and residence directors to make special arrangements during the recovery period.

"We have ordered for the whole campus for an H1N1 vaccine," Dubois said. "There is an injection and a nasal mist. We currently have the nasal mist and we are waiting for the vaccine. We thought we were going to have it last week but it is not here yet."

According to Geneseo's H1N1 Virus Update Web site, the vaccine is currently only available to University Police and members of Geneseo First Response. The vaccine will be made available to the entire campus as soon as supplies permit.

"The problem is that it is being supplied in small doses over long periods of time," Dubois said. She added that the CDC recommends everyone receive the vaccine once it is available, regardless of whether one has been sick already.

Reprieve for the spread of the illness does not appear likely in the immediate future. "The information that I have gotten is that it is probably going to continue until the regular flu season, which is in January," Dubois said.  

Student concern regarding the illness has been varied. "There seems to be a new trendy disease every winter that everyone is talking about," said senior Karl George. "I am not really worried about it."

"[Swine flu is] an over-hyped version of regular flu," said sophomore Ben Perry. "If I develop flu-like symptoms I am just going to tough it out and take some NyQuil."

Leanne Richardson, senior and vice president of service for the Alpha Phi Omega coed service fraternity, said that influenza-like illnesses have impacted many of APO's planned activities. Richardson said that several members of the executive board are ill and that at least 10 of the roughly 100 members are suspected to have swine flu.

Reported cases of the virus have spiked nationwide as the federal government scrambles to distribute the vaccine. Although most people who suffer from the virus recover within a few days, those susceptible to complications can require hospitalization.