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Amherst receives H1N1 vaccine

The town of Amherst has received its anxiously-awaited shipment of H1N1 vaccine. As the cases of swine flu pile up amongst the student body of the University of Massachusetts, for most, the vaccine has come not a moment too soon.

The town has received two shipments of H1N1 vaccine, both consisting of one hundred doses. Another 200 doses are on the way, according to a release from Epi Bodhi, the Amherst Health Department director.

Though the Amherst residents will now have access to the vaccine, Bodhi said there is no way of telling how many cases of swine flu are present in the town. 

“Since we are not testing for swine flu, we can only go by reports of influenza-like symptoms,” she said. “They are mostly in school-age children, and the numbers go up and down.” 

Bodhi also said that of the 200 doses already received, most were sent to pediatric and obstetric clinics in the area, with a handful being administered to emergency responders in the town of Amherst. 

“Since children and pregnant women are the highest priority, that is who we are trying to get the flu vaccine out to,” Bodhi said. “We also sent out about 20 doses to first responders in town.” 

Despite having the vaccine available for the residents, Bodhi still insisted that preventive measures be taken by every resident.  Bodhi offered several suggestions for the people who are or will become sick. 

Bodhi cautioned that people should avoid hugging, holding, kissing or shaking hands with anyone who has a cold or the flu, as well as to avoid touching their noses, mouths or eyes.  She said that everyone should be washing his hands often with soap and warm water or using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer, as well as cleaning items that are touched often such as telephones and door handles. 

Should anyone get sick with the flu, Bodhi said it is important that they stay home and avoid contact with others.  As the risk of swine flu has proven to be prevalent on a college campus, officials at UMass have encouraged those students who have fallen ill to skip classes, if only to avoid infecting others.  In an e-mail released to all UMass students by Dr. Jean Kim, vice chancellor for student affairs and campus life, students were promised that should they have to miss a class for an illness they would not be penalized as long as faculty members are informed. 

For those who are sick, Bodhi said to drink plenty of fluids and to get plenty of rest.  If severe symptoms still persist. Bodhi said to contact a healthcare provider. 

Cameron Ford can be reached at cjford@student.umass.edu.

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