QU maintains flu caution

By on March 3, 2010

The H1N1 influenza virus, a topic of substantial coverage in the second half of 2009, has appeared to die down in the eyes of the mainstream media. But the Health and Wellness Center at Quinnipiac is not allowing a decline in widespread attention to affect the way it handles the virus.

“The CDC [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] is telling us that there could be a third wave,” said Kathryn Macaione, director of student health services. “Right now we are seeing flu-like symptoms. Do we know it’s H1N1? We do not. Do we know it’s seasonal? We do not.”

This semester, there have been 32 students sent home with flu-like symptoms. The alternative housing site is not expected to be used again, but if it is, only one of the studios will be opened as an isolation area.

The CDC officially stated that H1N1 has affected an estimated 57 million Americans, and has been a factor in an estimated 11,690 deaths since its identification in April 2009. Immunizations have been a huge part of the process since they were issued to QU students in December. However, the state issued a recall on previous vaccinations set to expire in 2011.

According to a health update by the state, “Connecticut received more than 80,000 doses from the 50 effected lots, which were distributed to over 50 provider offices. These vaccines were shipped between November 2009 and January 2010. Although these vaccines remain potent, they are losing their potency more rapidly than expected, and therefore the shelf life is being shortened. There are no safety concerns with these lots of 2009 H1N1 vaccine. People who received vaccine from these lots with shortened shelf life do not need to take any action.”

Quinnipiac received 1,000 of these doses, but they had to be thrown out immediately after the immunization clinics due to the recall. The lack of students that received the vaccination, according to Macaione, was “disheartening.” At least 800 doses are confirmed to have been discarded as a result of the expiration deadline.

“We had a clinic, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday [two weeks ago]…Turnout was sad,” she said. “Would I order a whole big bunch again with the way the turnout was? No, I would not.”

The Health and Wellness Center instituted an extensive prevention policy last semester as a precaution to the virus, strictly adhering to the safety measures given by the CDC. The policy included sending students home with any sort of flu-like symptoms, as long as they lived within 200 miles of the school. The diagnoses did not have to be confirmed as H1N1 cases, rather the flu-like cases were “presumptive.” This policy has been, and will continue to stay in effect throughout the rest of this semester.

“It was a semester like I have never seen…and it was unprecedented,” Macaione said. “We had a great number of cases. It was over 500.”

The Quinnipiac Crisis Management team went to several seminars before the 2009-2010 academic year started, including those held at Yale and St. Joseph’s College to absorb knowledge regarding the virus’ implications on campus life.

“We were really a model,” Macaione said. “I think Quinnipiac really, really went above and beyond. We staffed it; we provided for needs, Chartwells provided for food. My colleagues couldn’t believe what we were doing.”

At least 480 students were sent home, while those who lived outside the 200 mile radius stayed in the temporary alternative housing site located in the second floor studios at the Recreation Center. The overflow of students with the symptoms, paired with the lack of beds in the Health Center (only four), meant that this site would be put to use.

“On Election Day, Student Health Services looked like a zoo. Our waiting rooms fell to capacity,” Macaione said. “Anybody that came in with the signs or symptoms of the flu, we put a mask on. We had them in our conference room. If you went out there it looked like a comic strip.”

There were a total of 70 beds set up in the studios (35 in each studio), which were staffed 24/7. Security guards were stationed at the door to make sure no one entered the premises. The maximum number of students to stay in the isolation areas at the same time was 10.

“We upset a lot of people,” Macaione said. “A: The classes in the studios had to be moved somewhere. B: By doing those temporary walls, we were displacing coaches and teams’ locker rooms … but we needed bathrooms, we needed showers, we needed a place for the staff, so the walls went up. We didn’t make lots of friends over at athletics.”

The alternative housing site was closed on Nov. 20, and it has not beenreopened.

Simple preventative measures to avoiding contracting H1N1, or any form of the flu, include thoroughly washing your hands and face, not sharing cups, and coughing and sneezing into your elbow.

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