Bubble bursts: Linfield reports first cases of H1N1
Dominic Baez – Editor in chief. Linfield reported its first cases of the H1N1 virus this week. Eight students have been infected in total.
The cases occurred both on and off campus, with six from the residence halls, one from a fraternity house and the last from an off-campus residence. In an effort to protect those infected from being ostracized, the Review has decided not to publish the names of the students or the fraternity house in question.
As of Oct. 1, Campbell, Larsell, Miller and Mahaffey halls and the aforementioned fraternity house have been closed off to non-residents, Jeff Mackay, associate dean of students and director of housing, said. Some students in these locations have been diagnosed with Influenza A (H1N1).
“Because the Centers for Disease Control and the State Health Division recommend H1N1 testing only in the case of hospitalization or death, community providers are not testing for the H1N1 subtype,” Patricia Haddeland, C.P.N.P., Student Health Center coordinator and board-certified nurse, said. “There are a variety of influenza strains, and H1N1 is a subtype of the Influenza A variety. Rapid testing for Influenza A is widely available, and most clinics and hospitals have the ability to perform the test. What we know for sure is there have been a number of laboratory-confirmed cases of Influenza A in Yamhill County, including the Linfield campus. Because seasonal influenza does not typically arrive until November or later, it is assumed that this influenza is the H1N1 strain.”
It is also important to note that affected residence halls have not been quarantined, as campus rumor speculated, but only closed off to non-residents, Mackay said. Healthy students are advised to not enter infected areas but are not prevented from doing so.
The decision to close the halls comes from recommendations from the Yamhill County Health Department. The closure will be lifted once every occupant in each individual residence has been fever-free for at least 24 hours without the help of fever-reducing drugs, Mackay said.
Students who feel ill, whether because of H1N1 or seasonal flu, should isolate themselves from the general public unless medical attention is needed, Mackay said. Then, students should visit the Student Health Center.
“The SHC is treating students according to Centers for Disease Control and Yamhill County Public Health Department guidelines and recommendations,” Haddeland said. “For most students, this will be self-isolating in their housing environments, encouraging rest and adequate hydration and symptom management to control fevers and body aches. Antiviral therapy is only recommended for patients with significant underlying medical conditions that put them at risk for more severe problems.”
She said the SHC has been busier than normal this year, but it has been fortunate enough to have help from Health Education and Physicians’ Medical Center. The SHC works on a triage model, meaning it prioritizes the sickest students over more routine visits.
Residence Life, the SHC and the Emergency Preparedness Committee, created by the college and chaired by Vice President of Finance and Administration Glenn Ford, have each worked to develope protocols that will be followed should an H1N1 outbreak hit campus.
According to Residence Life protocol, based on recommendations from YCHD, and in conjunction with nearby colleges and universities, if a residence hall student is infected, Resident Advisors will close the residence hall to outside visitors, send home the infected student if possible (or have the student isolate himself or herself from others) and request that the infected student (and roommates) wear a mask when out in public, among other precautions. Similar measures will be taken for Suburbs and off-campus residents, sans the closure of their residences.
These actions run parallel to what the SHC and the EPC recommends.
“Starting last spring, the SHC has been preparing for the possibility of a busier influenza season than normal,” Haddeland said. “A myriad of print- and Web-based information has gone out to students, parents, staff and faculty with information on how to minimize individual risk of developing influenza and how to protect the broader community if you become ill. Additionally, the SHC has provided two seasonal influenza vaccine clinics and continues to vaccinate students, staff and faculty by request. We are currently preparing for a large-scale vaccine clinic when the H1N1 vaccine arrives. We have been designated a ‘Point of Distribution’ site for Yamhill County.”
The first batch of vaccine is set to be distributed to the states the first week in October. The first shipment will contain between six and seven million doses of vaccine, most in the form of a nasal spray, U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius said Sept. 24.
When the vaccine does become available, it will be highly effective. Anne Schuchat, chief health officer of the CDC, said that unlike the seasonal flu vaccine, which may or may not closely match the strain of flu prevalent in a particular year, the H1N1 vaccine perfectly matches the pervasive strain of H1N1.
“We encourage everyone to wash their hands, cover their coughs, stay home when they are sick and get both the seasonal and H1N1 vaccines,” Haddeland said.
For more information, visit the CDC’s, YCHD’s and State of Oregon Health Division’s Web sites.