Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Vol. CLIV, Issue 10
Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Flu increases at Whitman, strain unknown

Credit: Cornelius
A shelf tag announces the sell out of respiratory masks at the H1N1 clinic in the Blue Mountain Mall.Credit: Cornelius

Flu-like symptoms continue to hit students across the Whitman campus.

As of yesterday, Oct. 28, there have been a total of 85 cases of flu-like symptoms this season at the Welty  Health Center. The health center does not test whether or not individual cases are H1N1 influenza, also known as swine flu. While the flu has hit campus, the health center, with the support of the student body, is working to keep the flu’s impact at Whitman as low as possible.

The numbers so far have been “manageable,” according to Claudia Ness, the interim director for the health center, but the college is ready to implement the Whitman Pandemic Plan in the event of a large scale epidemic. Although they are prepared, the health center is first and foremost looking to stop an outbreak of illness from occurring through preventative methods.

“I don’t think people have noticed how much work the health center is putting into making people aware through all the posters and such,” said sophomore Thomas Siegret, president of the Student Health Advisory Counsel (SHAC).

Preventative measures include reminding all to practice obvious hygienic principles such as hand-washing and covering one’s mouth when coughing. The health center also urges students to get vaccinated.

“We are encouraging everyone to get their seasonal flu shot,” said Ness.

The Health Center, as of late, does not have the seasonal flu shot on hand.

“We ordered more vaccines than in the past. [We ran out] because of people’s heightened awareness,” said Ness.

Local pharmacies and clinics are administering the flu vaccines, as is the Walla Walla County Health Department, which made flu shots available to the community at the annual Flu Round Up Oct. 20-22. Unfortunately the health department had to turn away community members Oct. 22 due to a  refrigerator  malfunction which rendered 1,000 doses of the influenza vaccine unusable. Although supplies were further strained by the loss, local pharmacies who had the vaccine on hand pooled their supplies together to offer them to the public.

A major concern has been the H1N1 vaccine, which the Health Center and the Flu Round Up are not offering. At the Flu Round Up, which processed 2,720 people on the first day alone, only the seasonal influenza and pneumonia vaccinations were available.

“The [H1N1] vaccine is not available in the quantities we would need for the entire community,” said Susann Bussham from the health department.

Due to limited supply, the H1N1 vaccine will be made available to specific individuals based on a priority system.

“This year H1N1 shots will be made available to select groups of community members,” said Ness. She and Bassham both said the health department will have the vaccine available to high risk people such as those with high risk heart conditions or diabetes, pregnant women and the elderly.

At the health center, students with Influenza Like Illnesses, (the coined term this flu season due to the dual prototypes) will not be tested for a precise illness. The Health Center adopted this practice because both flus have the same treatment and, with the illness lasting 3-5 days, the results on the testing would most likely excede the time its takes to get better.

When a student is confirmed to have flu-like symptoms, he or she is given a packet which includes items such as a mask, tissues, ibuprofen, and Tylenol, then asked to stay isolated in his or her room until 24 hours after the expected fever has cooled which is when the individual is deemed no longer contagious.

“It came on fast. The first thing to hit was a high fever,” said first-year student Joseph Gottlieb, who previously had the flu this year. For four days he found himself trying to get better and avoid passing the flu to both of his roommates. “Every time they came over I had to put my mask on,” he said.

One of Gottlieb’s roommates is David Shapiro who was “not really” worried about becoming ill. His lack of concern is justified by the fact that influenza is most contagious two days before the symptoms of illness hits “which is why covering your mouth and washing your hands is so important,” said Ness.

While ill, Gottlieb received two calls from the health  center. If many students do become ill and are confined the Whitman College Health Center Staff alone may not be able to check on everyone continuously, but with support from SHAC it may be possible.

“They contacted me to see if SHAC wanted to be in any way involved . . . what they wanted from us was to create a volunteer reserve of students who would be on hand if/when a flu epidemic reached considerable numbers,” said Siegret.

The reserve of student consists of 12   SHAC members who would call sick students to see how they are feeling as well as bring food and make visits depending on what the health situation allows or calls for. With this joint-response effort, Ness is confident students will receive the care they require.

“The Health Center is prepared. The campus is prepared,” she said.

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