Education Secretary: Get H1N1 vaccine now

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan held a conference call Thursday,with collegiate reporters to discuss the ways in which students should keep themselves H1N1-free this season.

Sec. Duncan urged college students to obtain the vaccine before the upcoming winter break to prevent the spread of H1N1. “While we’re seeing a dip in the number of reported H1N1 cases nationwide, we know that can change at any time. We still need to take steps to prevent the spread of the flu,” Duncan said.

According to Duncan, college students are among the most likely to contract H1N1. “We are simply not out of the woods yet. It’s important for as many college students as possible to get the vaccine,” Duncan said.

He urged students living in dormitories to keep a watchful eye over their health.

“If you live in a dorm with a roommate, let your RA know you’re sick, so that steps can be taken to get you somewhere to get well and keep others in the building from being infected,” Duncan said.

He also addressed students that commute or live off campus. “Students with flu- like symptoms who live off campus should also return home or avoid coming onto campus.”

“Whether you’re well or sick with the flu, you should be practicing common sense prevention. Wash your hands thoroughly and cover your noses and mouths, when sneezing or coughing,”

Duncan is hopeful universities will work together with students in instances of illness that might require students to miss class. “We’re looking for universities to be flexible here. If you’re sick and have to miss class, it’s the right thing to do.”

Dr. Beth Bell, the Associate Director of Science at the Center for Disease Control (CDC), said the CDC is monitoring the flu virus. “There are a small number of these flu viruses that have developed resistance to the medicine Oseltamivir but, that has been a very very small number,” Dr. Bell said.

According to the Associated Press, the World Health Organization recently announced the investigation of samples of a mutated swine flu virus that is responsible for the death of two French patients.

When asked of the investigation, Bell stated she was unaware of the report.

“There are many different kinds of mutations that any flu virus can undergo. I don’t know what this report is that you’re talking about, but there have been no mutations identified,” Bell said.

Bell continued to say she doesn’t want anyone to be deterred from obtaining the vaccine. “In any case, all of these potential ways that the virus can change and the few things we’ve noticed are not related to how good the vaccine is protecting.”

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