Student Health Services (SHS) has seen three confirmed cases of the H1N1 influenza – more commonly referred to as swine flu – in students.
The cases were found earlier this month. SHS took swabs from patients with symptoms and tested for influenza A. Samples that came back positive were sent to the state to be checked for swine flu.
After these discoveries, SHS Director Dr. Egilda Terenzi said she checked with the Hillsborough County Health Department’s medical director, who told her that about 80 percent of swabs that are going to the state have tested positive for swine flu.
“So the state was no longer recommending routinely sending swabs for all patients with influenza A,” Terenzi said. “It is presumed that those who are showing signs influenza and are positive for A – that they are going to be swine flu or H1N1.”
Terenzi said SHS would test if entire areas such as sororities seemed like they were affected. It would confirm swine flu with one swab and then talk to those in the area about prevention efforts.
The health department asked SHS to be vigilant for worsening signs or symptoms, because primary care doctors would be the first to see them, Terenzi said.
Mark Walters, associate professor at USF St. Petersburg and author of Six Modern Plagues and How We Are Causing Them, said the swine flu hasn’t finished its evolution.
“We don’t know if it will get worse, or if it will get milder, or if it will stay the same,” he said. “So this is a new kid of the block and we don’t know if it is going to be a nice kid or a bully, but we will know soon enough.”
Walters said the big deal about swine flu is people’s lack of immunity.
“More people will be affected by swine flu than were being affected by the regular flu, so a greater percentage will catch it, because they didn’t have immunity,” he said. “So even if it is milder, because so many more people will have it, more people are likely to die.”
The treatment of swine flu depends on the patient. Terenzi said the Center for Disease Control (CDC) isn’t recommending that everyone with mild flu symptoms take Tamiflu. The CDC is recommending the drug only to those who have severe symptoms or another illness that makes them more susceptible to complications.
“It is going to depend on severity, on when the student presents to us, and on their other
history of illnesses whether they are treated with an anti-viral or treated with supportive care,” she said.
Terenzi said a vaccine should be available in mid-October.
SHS has released the information it has and is working on a marketing campaign.
“We are running a fine line between alarming people and keeping people informed,” Terenzi said.
The prevention campaign will be seen in the fall.
“We are looking at the possibility of having stickers on every bathroom mirror, to remind people this is really a place they need to wash their hands,” Terenzi said.
The greatest advance of prevention in history is washing your hands, said Walters.
“The primitive and most frivolous technique is the most effective,” he said.