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CDC, Health Department encourage precautions to avoid H1N1 virus

Students should be mindful of flu prevention and health this winter

Free hand sanitizing stations are located in each classroom and library for students and faculty to use to prevent the spread of pathogens this flu season.
Dennis Wahlman / Mainstream
Free hand sanitizing stations are located in each classroom and library for students and faculty to use to prevent the spread of pathogens this flu season.

You may not be sick yet, but the flu is definitely here.

Currently, 36 states, including Oregon, are reporting widespread outbreaks, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In Oregon alone, at least two are dead and 87 hospitalized due to the H1N1 virus.

The H1N1 virus is a highly contagious flu strain that mainly targets healthy people who have not been vaccinated. The virus is not new. It originally appeared in the late 1950s and reemerged in 2009. That means people who were exposed to either or both of those outbreaks likely developed immunity to this strain, according to the CDC. However, those who escaped the 2009 outbreak are especially vulnerable now.

With this strain, “the majority of the flu is spread by young, healthy unvaccinated children and adults,” according to the CDC website.

Due to the way the flu is spread, the Oregon Health Department and CDC urge everyone to get a flu shot, especially students.

Not everyone is listening; 55 percent of the U.S. population six months and older opted out of receiving the flu vaccine during the 2012-2013 season, according to US News.

Some students, such as student Shon Ellis, do not worry about getting sick. “I didn’t get a flu shot. I never caught the flu. I’m not worried about it.”

Student Tyler Coe also avoided a flu shot but for different reasons. “I think in a way they can make you sick when you first get them or make your sickness worse,” Coe said.

However, others decided to get a flu shot as a preventative measure to avoid serious illness.

“I’ve had a history of bad flu and pneumonia, so I felt like it was a good idea,” student Don Gilman said.

A flu shot is just one of many ways to take precautions against the flu. Authorities warn students and faculty to take precautions.

Student Sneezing
Najla Morgan / Mainstream

Improper hand-washing and not covering coughs/ sneezes are the most common ways the virus is spread, according to the Oregon Public Health Department.

According to the CDC, the most effective way to wash your hands is with warm water and soap. They say to lather soap in hands for about twenty seconds or the time it takes to hum “Happy Birthday” twice; rinse off hands and dry thoroughly; then try to use a paper towel to open the door to avoid the transfer of germs from the door handle.

Students pick up pathogens from places many people touch, such as door handles and keyboards.

To help prevent the spread of germs in the library and classrooms, containers of sanitizing wipes and wall-mounted sanitizing stations are available. The library has sanitizing wipes by the lab aide computer and on the bookcase near the computer lab. Students are asked to sanitize key boards and each computer mouse before each use. The majority of classrooms have hand sanitizer pumps in them, as well. 

“I advise all students to use the Purcell hand sanitizer when they enter and leave the classroom,” Cheryl Yoder, health and wellness instructor and athletic director, said.

However, even when taking precautions, a person can still get the flu. Influenza is spread through close contact with infected people, so the Oregon Public Health Department warns students to stay home when they have “flu-like” symptoms, including congestion, vomiting and extreme fatigue accompanied by a fever. If symptoms persist, the CDC suggests seeking medical attention.

The UCC website asks students to stay home until fever-free for 24 hours without the use of fever reducing medication.

Many students, however, worry about the negative consequences of absences, such as losing important lecture time and missing assignments.

“Missing school when I’m sick stresses me out. When I miss school, I have to make it up later and this ensures stress,” student Aria Blackwood said.

Instructors understand that students get sick and offer advice to help them keep up with their classes.

“Communication is key. Notify your instructors before your absence. Stay on top of reading and assignments that you know about,” art instructor Susan Rochester said.