Since the eruption in the spring of 2009, the H1N1 virus, more commonly known as the “swine flu,” has spread across the nation in an aggressive manner. There have already been two confirmed cases of H1N1 on the Valdosta State University campus. Therefore, it is vital that students and faculty alike are aware of what exactly the H1N1 virus is, what to do if it is contracted, and how to recognize the symptoms so that it may be avoided.
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), H1N1 is a contagious influenza virus that is spread through the respiratory system by sneezing and coughing. The H1N1 virus varies from the common seasonal flu in that it has much more severe symptoms and consequences, especially in young children, pregnant women and individuals with weak immune systems. Although many people have recovered from the swine flu without medical treatment, there have been reported cases of death from H1N1 in America.
H1N1 mimics many symptoms of the seasonal flu, from sinus congestion to violent vomiting. Despite scientists’ efforts to create a vaccine, it is important to remember that the normal flu vaccination is ineffective and is not designed to protect against the more aggressive H1N1.
If you or anyone else experiences severe symptoms, such as shortness in breath and intense pressure in the chest area, consult a doctor and see if the flu test is available to you. You may also obtain antiviral drugs such as Relenza; however, they are in short supply and may only be administered if the patient is severely ill to the point of hospitalization.
Dr. Hiatt, the Director of the Student Health Center, wrote a letter of warning addressed to the campus body that is available on the Student Health Center Web site. He reassures the quick recovery of the two Swine Flu cases in June; however stresses caution in the upcoming winter as it is also the regular seasonal flu season. The most important thing to remember is to always cover your mouth when sneezing and coughing, as this is how the virus is spread. Exercise proper hygiene constantly by washing your hands and keeping them away from your face. Also be wary of partying too much – individuals who do not get plenty of rest and are constantly not keeping fluids in their bodies are more likely to fall victim to H1N1 because of a weakened immune system. Lastly, if you contract the H1N1 virus, keep isolated until 24 hours after a broken fever so that the virus may discontinue spreading.
H1N1 has become a pandemic across the country, the community, and even on campus. Always be aware of the symptoms people show and upkeep a healthy hygiene routine. If students and faculty alike can take caution by being informed about the virus, it can easily be avoided and managed.
For more information regarding the H1N1 virus, check out the CDC website at: www.cdc.gov/h1n1flu