Last Friday, Snow Health Center opened its doors for students to receive the H1N1 vaccination. This was just one part of Eastern Michigan University’s extensive preparation to fight the swine flu.
“I believe that Eastern is very well prepared,” Executive Director of University Health Services Ellen Gold said. “We began planning as soon as H1N1 hit hard in Mexico.”
The plans covered everything from classes to caring for students who were asked to self isolate in their dorms.
“We made a website for updates on the flu,” Gold said. “We put an Academic Affairs absentee policy, and a plan for employees. We even have a telephone triage. We can initially triage students over the phone and avoid masses of students in the waiting area.”
Because EMU is a college campus, it faces different issues when creating both a prevention and containment plan.
“We’re our own community,” Gold said. “In some ways, it’s more beneficial, in some more difficult. We have large numbers of people interacting in close proximity in class, at football games, at a concert, in the residence halls. They’re sharing space and things, and the living environment makes us more vulnerable.”
Another challenge is the fact they’re dealing with college students who are independent.
“Students don’t want to miss class,” Gold said. “They don’t want to get way behind, they can’t afford to. We’re so used to telling them to ‘suck it up’. It’s a real change to start thinking ‘I shouldn’t be there’. Now there’s a whole different mindset. Here, they’re on their own. Parents can’t say ‘no, I’m keeping you home’.”
One of the most important ways to stay healthy during this flu season is to take preventative measures.
“Vaccination is especially important for people under the age of 64,” Gold said. “The reason why it’s hitting younger people is unknown. But we haven’t developed immunities and we’re at a bit of a higher risk over season flu where you have all kinds of people who receive the flu shot.”
Many students haven’t even considered getting a flu shot, even though there have been numerous opportunities both on and around campus.
“Students feel they’re invincible,” Gold said. “I’m most surprised at the number of students who have thought about it and decide not to get it. We have a good amount of vaccine, and I’d like to get a good amount of students vaccinated.”
With the semester break coming up soon, students face whole new challenges than they did while on campus when it comes to staying healthy.
“If you’re away from campus and develop symptoms, contact your physician or an urgent care clinic,” Gold said. “Don’t wait. The earlier you catch it, the better. Don’t hesitate to call somewhere if you have a fever over 100, a cough, or a sore throat. Sometimes you can get advised over the phone.”
Have fun during the holiday season, but remain conscious of the fact that flu season is in full effect.
“Don’t stop hugging or kissing or going to parties,” Gold said. “You can do all of those things, just be smart. Don’t share drinks or utensils; Get your own if you don’t know where it came from. Wash your hands or carry a bottle of hand sanitizer. If you’re around someone coughing, turn away and advise them to cough into their sleeve, not their hand.”
While doing things like hand washing and covering your cough can help prevent the virus’s spread, the best thing you can do for you and those around you is to get vaccinated.
“I appreciate everyone who has made an effort to keep the campus healthy and I encourage people who are eligible to get the vaccine,” Gold said. “It’s the number one preventative measure.”
There are several more vaccine clinics scheduled on campus. For the latest swine flu updates, visit emich.edu and click on the link about swine flu for up to date information.