Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Swine flu PcP: Students are in good hands with UHS

By Matt Sullivan

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With the heart of flu season approaching, University Health Services (UHS) is readily preparing for what is predicted to be among the strongest strains within the last thirty years. The swine flu, or H1N1, is significantly more difficult to treat than seasonal flu and has resulted in at least twenty-seven reported deaths around the U.S. Two cases of the Swine were confirmed locally at Amherst College last year. And already this semester there have been over 1,600 cases across the nation’s campuses.

In the face of this, do Student Health Services have the resources or the experience to handle H1N1 at the University of Massachusetts Amherst? Most of the student body when asked would just scoff and say that nothing can be done.  If one person gets it, three more people are going to get it, and so on. It’s simple multiplication. That doesn’t mean that Health Services isn’t going to take every means necessary to limit the volume of illnesses on campus.

Health Services will be closely cooperating with Amherst College down the road, where there will be quarantine dorms. Yes, the word quarantine is scary. No one wants to be quarantined. But it is an excellent solution by UHS in halting the spread of the H1N1 virus. Imagine your roommate hacking up a lung in the bunk above you, praying to God that you won’t be infected, and then you’ll be thankful for UHS having quarantine dorms this year.

But realistically speaking, Health Services is advising that students take the typical precautions for preventing respiratory born illnesses. These methods are listed on the UHS website, along with other useful information. In addition, the UHS’s Triage Advice Nurse is available from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Further, UHS is advising students to make sound judgment when attending class if they show any of the listed symptoms. Many of the school’s professors are even going as far as to flat out tell students feeling a bit under the weather, to stay home and avoid contact with others. Will slackers like me use this as an excuse to blow off class for days at a time? Yes. Is this the best way to prevent the spread of flu? Absolutely it is. No one wants infectious mucus sneezed on them from the kid wiping snots on his sleeve sitting one seat over.

 A shot for seasonal flu will be readily available to students, as it always is. The seasonal flu vaccinations are being scheduled for every Thursday afternoon, 1p.m. to 4 p.m., through December 17th. Although as of today, there is no vaccine to protect against the H1N1 virus, but one is currently in production and expected for fall distribution. When this vaccine becomes available, UHS will conduct campus clinics.

I may have no credentials as a public health expert, but I can say that I put my trust in Health Services. Although they are by no means the Center for Disease Control, they are made up of a highly qualified staff of professionals who know how to do their job. If they didn’t, well, they would be replaced, because this is America. They are employed by the state; their orders on crisis management are therefore coming from the government, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health.

However, if H1N1 were to mutate and hit UMass with cases by the hundreds, perhaps the thousand, then, we might have a problem. But unless swines fly, most likely this fall isn’t going to be some apocalyptic Stephen King horror story, so Health Services will do just fine. We’re not living “The Stand,” people, and this strain isn’t the Spanish Flu of 1918 that killed 100 million.

Matt Sullivan is a Collegian columnist. He can be reached at [email protected]   

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