Student health takes proactive, safe approach

Though Student Health Services can’t test every student for swine flu, it is prepared for the virus.

The panic over swine flu ebbed since the initial outbreak last year, as more information about the virus became available. Temple’s Student Health Services is taking notes from the University of Pennsylvania and Emory University, both of which have had several confirmed cases of the H1N1 virus.

Associate Director of Student Health Services Mark Denys said Temple is taking an active approach toward protecting against the virus.

“We are monitoring our situation extremely closely,” he said. “We are tracking students who come in with flu-like symptoms, and we are following them, so that if we have more students come in with the flu than we had last year, we’ll know.”

However, Student Health Services tests very few of the clients in relation to the number that come in with flu-like symptoms.

“As it stands, we have no [one] at Temple [who] has tested positive for the H1N1 virus,” said Denys. “Current recommendation from the [Center for Disease Control] is not to test everyone. We are very selective in who we test. People who are at high risk of complications or those who are already severely ill and require hospitalization are qualified for testing.”

The client will be tested once admitted to a hospital.

Emory’s testing procedures leave far less room for oversight.

“We’re seeing everybody that comes in, so that’s one of the reasons we’re working so late,” said Dr. Michael Huey, executive director for Emory’s student health and counseling services. With more than 120 confirmed cases of the H1N1 virus on Emory’s campus, Huey said he feels a commitment to aggressive testing practices is necessary for the safety of its students and staff.

Temple is a breeding ground for viruses. With more than 35,000 students and faculty on Main Campus, students should take CDC recommendations on preventative measures seriously.

Sophomore anthropology major Alyson Caine said she isn’t worried about the virus.

“I know that the swine flu is an epidemic and that it can get worse as the flu season comes around, but I’m not really afraid,” she said.

Yet, no one can be fully equipped to weather this flu season until the vaccine arrives.

“Nobody knows when the H1N1 vaccine will be available,” Denys said, adding that with the current demand for the vaccine, Temple SHS will not get all of the doses that they place a request for.

Production of the seasonal flu vaccine has been put on pause now that all manufacturers are focusing on H1N1-specific vaccines. In a prompt from the CDC, seasonal flu vaccine production resumed for a short period last week, and doses are expected to reach Temple’s SHS sometime this week.

As it stands, Temple doesn’t have any confirmed cases of infection with the H1N1 virus, which can account for Temple’s SHS’s relaxed testing policy.

Another reason for this policy is that “you treat someone who has H1N1 the same way you treat someone who has the seasonal flu,” Denys said.

“It’s the same as seasonal flu,” he said. “The difference is the heightened awareness through the media, the fact that very few people will have immunity to it, there is no vaccine for it yet, the earlier season … those are the biggest differences.”

The duration of the symptoms associated with H1N1, though, has been generally less severe than that of the symptoms with seasonal flu.

Concern over the virus seems to have eased with the rise in information about the virus. Senior Sean Feely, a film and media arts major, said he is not worried.

“We went through the same thing a couple of years ago with Avian Flu [H5N1] and [severe acute respiratory syndrome], and the whole thing was kind of blown out of proportion,” Feely said. “A lot of people frightened over something that can be prevent with common sense. You know, if you sneeze cover your mouth with you arm, use hand sanitizer, that sort of thing.”

Quentin Williams can be reached at quentin@temple.edu.

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