Campus News

Bethel takes steps to fight H1N1 flu

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Earlier this month nearly 2,000 students at Washington State University reported symptoms of the novel H1N1 virus. That situation, as well as influenza cases in the Saint Joseph County area, has led Bethel College to take extra precautions to prevent the spread of the virus and create emergency plans for a possible outbreak. According to Health Service’s Director Mary Fulton, some of these precautionary measures include taking extra steps to disinfect classrooms, workout areas, door handles and railings, increasing education about the virus through posters and announcements and installing extra hand sanitizer stations throughout campus. Students may notice signs in classrooms, restrooms and dorms reminding them of the three Cs: cover your cough, clean your hands and contain illness—avoid contact with others if you or they are ill. Bethel is also taking steps to monitor influenza information with the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the Saint Joseph County Health Department (SJCHD), in case of an outbreak. “We’re monitoring the incidence of influenza-like illness (ILI) on campus,” said Fulton. “If the situation increases, the administration in collaboration with the SJCHD will take measures in accordance with CDC guidelines.” Currently, there are no confirmed cases of the H1N1 virus at Bethel. “There are respiratory illnesses on campus, including a few cases of influenza-like illness (ILI),” according to Fulton. If students have an ILI they can be tested for influenza at South Bend Medical Foundation. According to the CDC, this novel H1N1 virus could potentially “cause illness, hospital stays and deaths in the United States over the coming months.” According to Fulton the H1N1 virus is still considered a mild severity virus, which means most people recover without seeking medical help; however, the virus could mutate into a more aggressive, serious virus. “That’s why it’s important to monitor the severity level,” added Fulton. Currently, symptoms of H1N1 are similar to those of the normal influenza virus: abrupt or sudden onset of fever, cough or sore throat, body aches and stuffy or runny nose. Diarrhea and/or vomiting can also be present with H1N1. According to Fulton, difficulty breathing or a fever lasting more than 72 hours may call for more immediate medical attention. As of now, patients with H1N1 are being treated the same as those with the seasonal flu: rest, fluids and over-the counter medication to help symptoms. “Young people age 24 and under are at risk for this novel virus, and living in close quarters increases the possibility of transmission,” added Fulton. The H1N1 vaccine should be available in mid-October. Fulton said Bethel is tentatively planning a vaccine clinic after fall break, and students should be able to receive the vaccine for free. For now, Fulton advises the best way to control the spread of the disease is isolation. “Since the virus is mild, you may not feel extremely ill,” said Fulton. “But you should not attend class or be near others (chapel, dining commons, sporting events, etc.) until you are fever-free for 24 hours (without using fever-reducing medication).” Fulton advises students who think they may have the flu to call the Wellness Center at (574)807-7370 to report symptoms and to notify their resident director.
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