Campus prepares for H1N1

Credit: Rachel Inman/Art Staff Credit: Rachel Inman/Art Staff

There are 477 dead in the U.S.; 7511 hospitalized; 51 states and territories affected. The World Health Organization (WHO) declared the situation an official pandemic in June.

Even first-year orientation has been altered in response to the growing concern. What’s got health officials shaky? Swine flu. H1N1. The piggy flu.

The H1N1 influenza virus is the predominant influenza virus in circulation worldwide according to the Centers for Disease and Control (CDC). Carnegie Mellon’s Student Health Services has already seen documented cases of H1N1. What’s more terrifying? H1N1 is looking for you, the student between the ages of 5 and 24 years old.

According to the CDC, a theory for why this new virus attacks the younger generation is that older adults may carry forms of immunity while younger individuals may not carry antibodies to combat H1N1. The virus is spread through human-to-human contact and H1N1-contaminated surfaces.

“Playfair was changed. There was less hand contact and students were not encouraged to shake hands at the ending portion,” said Torrey Brenner, an orientation counselor and a sophomore in the cognitive sciences department. “But I’m not really concerned. The quarantine of infected students makes me feel safe.”

Anita Barkin, director of the Carnegie Mellon Student Health Services, stated, “The issue is of high importance but exhibits light activity within the Carnegie Mellon community.”

The American College Health Association (ACHA) drives most of the regulations for H1N1 prevention at universities like Carnegie Mellon while keeping an active dialogue with the Coalition for Emerging Public Health Threats and Emergency Response, for which Barkin serves as chairwoman. “There are two critical steps we’re taking. (A) Placing emphasis on the ‘vulnerable population’ with pre-existing conditions such as asthma or immune disorders. And (B) ensuring isolation of infected individuals to decrease the surge of new cases.”

The search for an H1N1 vaccine is underway at 11 sites across nine states. However, just clinical trials proceed while the general public must wait. “Only individuals diagnosed with influenza and those with serious underlying conditions should take Tamiflu and Relenza to prevent a shortage of supplies,” said Barkin. “Indiscriminate usage of these medications can also cause a prudent resistance amongst the population.”

While students enjoy the nice weather and greenery, H1N1 is just a moderate threat. Nonetheless, the upcoming winter months will drive students inside to keep in close quarters and may spur an increase in H1N1 infections.