H1N1 pandemic hits, Texas under pressure to take action

All across campus, classrooms are perfumed with liquid hand gel. Students wield antibacterial soap like ninjas, fending off disease. They want to know how to keep from getting the novel H1N1 virus—swine flu.

Epidemiology and TB nurse, DonnaLee Pollack,is a university alumna, and works in the Bell County Public Health District. She said that the term pandemic severity of the disease. “A pandemic spreads worldwide from person to person in a sustained way.” Death from influenza is not uncommon.

“We average 32 deaths a year from influenza just in Bell County,” Pollack said. Texas has sustained 44 flu-related deaths since April. The state is expecting 3.4 million doses of the H1N1 vaccine to arrive by Oct. 15.

“We ordered thousands of doses of H1N1 because we’re giving it for free …. We received extra money from the government for novel H1N1 vaccine clinics,” Pollack said.

Pollack said students need to take precautions to avoid getting sick, “particularly students with asthma, anyone who has a chronic condition, any lung condition, especially if anyone’s pregnant.”

She said, “The flu virus lives two to eight hours on surfaces …. Normal disinfectant will kill it.”

Director of Public Safety Gary Sargent said the university is prepared for an emergency.

“Back in 2003-04 the university began preparing for a pandemic … of biblical proportions, where we had mass casualties, high morbidity rate, high illness rate, high absenteeism rate. What we’re finding with this is it’s not as severe. It is basically just another strain of a seasonal flu.”

Even though H1N1 hasn’t turned out to be the pandemic expected, the university is still taking precautions just in case.

Sargent said, “Last year, we actually participated in a joint training exercise with the Bell County health district vaccination clinic on campus and run it relatively quickly.”

Symptoms do not show up as soon as a person is infected.

“You begin actually shedding the virus the day before the onset of symptoms. So you’re contagious 24 hours
or more before you even feel bad,” Sargent said.

Astonished by the number of deaths caused by the flu, Coordinator of Health Services, Debbie Rosenberger, said the seasonal flu kills around 30,000 people each year.

Pollack believes people should think ahead and buy their supplies and comfort foods before they become sick.

“Be prepared to get sick. Get your supplies ready …. I have my chicken broth in the freezer …. I like chicken soup, saltines and Canada Dry,” she said.

People with H1N1 or the flu should not expose themselves to others with sensitive immune systems.

“They need to think about not only their roommates but who they go home to. So if they have a grandma or
somebody that has existing health conditions, it’s really important that they get immunized so that they don’t bring it home to their family,” Rosenberger said.

The doctors’ offices are swamped during flu season, but most people do not need to go when they’re sick.

“Most individuals are recovering at home,” Pollack said.

Even though novel H1N1 is a new strain of influenza, it will become commonplace.

“In two years (H1N1) is going to be seasonal flu,” Pollack said.

Students without insurance can contact the campus free clinics in the area.

Pollack suggested students go to flu.gov for current information about H1N1 and for advice on prevention and treatment.

Also on the Web site is a series of clips of Elmo from Sesame Street showing proper to keep from spreading germs.

Pollack said, “Do what Elmo says; cough into your elbow. You can’t go wrong if you do what Elmo does.”

Author: Evangeline Grace Ciupek

Evangeline Grace Ciupek is currently studying English at the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor, and plans to graduate in May 2011. She joined The Bells staff Spring 2009. She is usually found reading enormous books assigned to her by professors, battling bugs in her parents' garden, playing acoustic guitar, or knitting the lone sock she's been working on since last Thanksgiving. While a career in journalism remains somewhat undesirable to her, Evangeline is grateful for the opportunity to improve her writing skills through involvement on The Bells staff. Her dream career would be that of a starving artist.

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