TIP OF THE MONTH
How are we…pandemically speaking?
Pandemic – an occurrence over a wide geographic area and affecting an exceptionally high proportion of the population.
Can you recall what it was like the first time you found out the H1N1 virus appeared at Albright College? Professors heard students coughing and sneezing they sent them to the Health Center. Some offices on campus were working with skeleton crews. The alternative house for infected students was a hopping place. Free H1N1 vaccine clinics were set up to help the prevention of the H1N1 virus.
As soon as Samantha Wesner, MSN, CRNP, RNC, Director of the Gable Health Center and Assistant Dean of Students found out that the H1N1 virus was going to hit pandemic level status, she put together a team of community members and collaboratively wrote a protocol of how the college was to perform and handle the situation if needed. As a result of the excellent planning we had a total of 33 cases in the student population and housed 11 of them on campus in our alternative house. Other colleges and universities positive cases were in the hundreds. We do need to pat ourselves on the back for a job well done.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO) the U.S. is currently in the post-pandemic phase. What does that mean? Essentially H1N1 will continue to circulate but be treated as the seasonal flu. It is estimated that the younger population, pregnant women, and those with chronic illness will still be affected disproportionately.
You might be asking why it took so long to declare that we are post-pandemic. The WHO has been monitoring the Southern hemisphere during their winter season, which is our summer season, to see if there were a great number of outbreaks of the H1N1 virus. There were minimal outbreaks which looks positive for the Northern hemisphere’s flu season.
What can we do as a community to keep the H1N1 virus to a minimum? Vaccinate. Vaccination is still key and most important in preventing the flu. The 2010 – 2011 flu vaccine is a trivalent vaccine, which means it contains three strains of flu. It will protect against influenza type A, influenza type B and H1N1 (2009) virus. Proper hygiene also helps to prevent illness. Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze or cough or sneeze into your upper sleeve, not your hands. Put used tissue in proper receptacle. Wash hands with soap and warm water or alcohol based cleanser until you can get to wash with soap and water.
What is the Gable Health Center going to do this flu season to prepare? The health center is going to do what it does every other flu season. Continue to see sick people, continue to treat as such and only use an antiviral when the case is very severe or there is an underlying health condition. Students will not be sent home and students will not be isolated.
The Gable Health Center will be offering the flu vaccine for the 2010-2011 flu season. An email will be sent to the students, faculty and staff to make an appointment when it becomes available.
If you would like more information on the post-pandemic period please visit the WHO’s website http://www.who.int/csr/disease/swineflu/en/index.html.
Have a safe and healthy September.
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