Whether H1N1 rumors leave you scared silly, utterly unconcerned or somewhere in between, this illness has made its way to Belmont’s campus and the surrounding areas.
Commonly called “swine flu,” this strain is different from the seasonal flu. “It (H1N1) is a pandemic, which means it’s all over the world at one time,” says Katy Wilson, director of Health Services. “It’s non-seasonal and affects a totally different population, targeting children and young adults.”
While H1N1 is unique, its symptoms are not. Affected individuals typically suffer from seasonal flu symptoms, ranging from fever and body aches to a sore throat and coughing.
Sounds pretty harmless, right?
And it may be. “I think most cases of H1N1 are fairly mild, at least in this area,” Wilson says.
But she is careful to emphasize that children and young adults – including college kids – may be more affected than other age groups. “In a regular flu season, you get deaths in the very old and young,” Wilson says. “But that’s not the case with this one.”
Even though the media has heavily covered this information, many Belmont students are laughing, scoffing and rolling their eyes when H1N1 is mentioned.
“I don’t think students are taking this seriously enough,” says Dr. Ginger Osborn, Belmont philosophy professor. “Even if they get it, they won’t take it seriously. That’s the invincibility of youth.”
While some students may feel invincible, others are simply not convinced that H1N1 is worth worrying about. “I’m not concerned about the swine flu because the normal flu kills more people each year than the swine flu has killed so far,” says Erik Unger, senior mass communications major.
Still, other students are heeding warnings and taking the threat of H1N1 seriously. “It seems foolish to pretend it’s not a real thing,” says Mary Love Bennett, senior English major. “I don’t think it would be raised to a pandemic level if it wasn’t serious.”
And it’s certainly a serious matter to Wilson and the rest of the Health Services staff. They’re doing their part to keep students healthy by offering 30 hand sanitizing stations, set up in high-traffic areas around campus, in addition to seasonal flu vaccines which are available in the Health Services office on the top floor of Gabhart (right above the cafeteria).
While the shots won’t protect against H1N1, Wilson says it’s still a good idea to get one. “We’re encouraging people to get a seasonal flu vaccine,” Wilson says. “If you got the regular flu, you would be more prone to other illnesses.”
An H1N1 vaccine – consisting of two shots, given three weeks apart – may be coming to Belmont in mid-October or early November, but Wilson cannot promise it will be available. “We can’t guarantee anything, but we are in line to get the vaccine,” Wilson says.
Other than getting a flu shot, Wilson recommends washing your hands, eating well, sleeping seven to eight hours each night and exercising to stay healthy. “It’s a great time to be taking care of yourself,” she says.
Wilson encourages students, faculty and staff to visit Health Services if they feel ill or have questions. “We’re trying to do all we can to keep people on Belmont’s campus healthy,” she says.
And what do they do if, despite one’s best efforts, they find themselves sick? “Take something for fever, like Advil or Tylenol, and stay in your room until 24 hours after the fever is gone,” Wilson says.
For more information on H1N1, visit www.belmont.edu/H1N1.