Campus / National / News / April 29, 2009

Campus on guard for swine flu

Swine flu, or H1N1, has now joined SARS, West Nile Virus, and bird flu in this decade’s list of panic-prompting pandemics. H1N1 began as a respiratory infection in pigs, but has now begun to spread to humans. As of this writing, there have been 91 cases of swine flu reported in the United States, nine of them in Illinois.

There is not yet a vaccine for this strain of influenza. According to the BBC, the World Health Organization (WHO) yesterday raised the swine flu alert to level five on a six-point scale, which is one point away from a full-blown global pandemic.

Organizations across the globe are mobilizing to contain the threat of a global outbreak. The Pentagon has begun to plan for a task force to organize the distribution of medical supplies, transportation, and logistics should these measures become necessary. Egypt is considering culling all of its pigs, and China and Russia have banned pork imports from Mexico and the United States, even though the WHO said that swine flu is not transmitted through meat.

Knox, too, is concerned. Karrie Heartlein, Director of Public Relations, sent an e-mail to the campus Monday, telling students to take precautions to avoid the illness. Dean of Students Xavier Romano e-mailed students who went on the Estudiantes sin Fronteras trip to the Mexican border during spring break, warning them to seek medical attention quickly if they start to feel ill. Professors Peter Schwartzman and Konrad Hamilton canceled a trip to Farmland Foods, a pork slaughterhouse in Monmouth, that members of their Environmental Racism class were to undertake early this morning. Smithfield and the swine flu outbreak have been speculatively linked in the media, but no concrete evidence of a connection has come to light.

The Knox Health Clinic is getting ready.

“We’ve been in a lot of coordination with the Knox County Health Department. We must have gotten ten faxes on CDC, state, and local guidelines,” said Lyle Murphy, Physicians’ Assistant at the Knox Health Center. Murphy said student reports of flulike symptoms will be given to the Knox County Health Department to track and follow.

Murphy said the surge in flu cases earlier in the month were of a type B strain of influenza, while swine flu is a type A. Still, the symptoms of swine flu, including fever, nausea, diarrhea, and headaches, strongly resemble those of the regular flu. The methods of prevention are also the same.

“Like the flu in general, wash your hands. If you’re sick, use good hygiene. Stay away from people when you’re sick. Give your roommate and your significant other a little extra space, common courtesy type things. Did I mention wash your hands a lot?” Murphy said.

If these measures do not work, Murphy encourages students to come to the Health Center for treatment immediately if they feel ill. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said yesterday that the U.S. government is currently in the process of distributing a quarter of its stockpile of the antiviral medications Relenza and Tamiflu to all 50 states, but these drugs only work within the first 48 hours of infection. Where drugs like the antibiotic penicillin actually kill the organisms that make us sick, antivirals only stop them from replicating, so quick action is necessary.

“You won’t feel better, but you’ll feel better sooner,” said Murphy. “We’re going to be so busy.”

Information courtesy of http://www.cnn.com. sick. Give your roommate and your significant other a little extra space, common courtesy type things. Did I mention wash your hands a lot?” Murphy said.

If these measures don’t work, Murphy encourages students to come to the Health Center for treatment immediately if they feel ill. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said yesterday that the U.S. government is currently in the process of distributing a quarter of its stockpile of the antiviral medications Relenza and Tamiflu to all fifty states, but these drugs only work within the first 48 hours of infection. Where drugs like the antibiotic penicillin actually kill the organisms that make us sick, antivirals only stop them from replicating, so quick action is necessary.

“You won’t feel better, but you’ll feel better sooner,” said Murphy. “We’re going to be so busy.”

Information courtesy of cnn.com.

Knox Health Center:

175 Knox Street

309-341-7559

10:30 a.m. – 4:30p.m. Monday-Friday

Prompt Care Campus:

1707 North Henderson Street

309-343-1000

8 a.m. – 8 p.m. Monday-Friday

8 a.m. – 5 p.m. Saturday-Sunday

Deana Rutherford


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