Concerns over the spread of the H1N1 “swine flu” influenza virus have prompted university officials to evaluate how to prevent an extreme outbreak of the virus on Ouachita’s campus.
Molly Wallace, OBU’s director of health services, has been working closely with Dr. Wesley Kluck and other administrators to make sure the students and faculty will be informed about how to best prevent contracting and spreading swine flu.
Dr. Kluck, vice president for institutional advancement and university physician, recently sent out an e-mail to faculty and students summarizing some of the suggestions of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) concerning the H1N1 virus.
These suggestions include frequently washing one’s hands, especially in high traffic areas such as the student center and Commons, and avoiding contact with people infected with the H1N1 influenza virus and anything they may have touched.
“From what I’m reading, they’re saying its [spread] more through direct contact,” Wallace said. “To get it through the air is not as likely.”
Wallace said Germ-X is being made available in the residence halls to help students reduce the spread of flu through direct contact.
“I think it’s inevitable that we are going to have students with this,” she added. “It’s going to be here, but we are just not going to know how bad it’s going to be on our campus.”
Dr. Kluck’s e-mail message said the vaccine is scheduled to be made available in October.
“They’ll start out with health care workers and people that are in the primary group that either have asthma, chronic conditions, things like that first,” Wallace said of the people who would be able to receive the vaccine first. “And then they’ll sort of go down the line of availability. College students are in that recommended group.”
While the CDC recommends that college students consider getting the vaccine, Wallace said Ouachita is not currently requiring students to get it.
Some doctors, including Dr. Joseph Mercola, a doctor with his own Internet blog have raised concerns over the safety of the H1N1 vaccine.
In one of his online blogs posted on July 27, Mercola stated, “How safe is a vaccine that has been developed, ‘tested,’ and shipped for mass distribution in a matter of weeks? The answer – it isn’t.”
However, a contrasting statement on the www.flu.gov Web site says, “We are making every effort to have a safe and effective H1N1 vaccine available for distribution as soon as mid-October.”
Wallace said while there is risk with every vaccine, she is going to rely on the studies that have already been done on the vaccine which lead to the conclusion that the vaccine is safe. She added that she plans to get the vaccine for herself once it is made available.
By Leah Garavelli, The Signal news/features co-editor