Health Services confirms cases of H1N1 on campus

Editor’s note: This article has been modified.

According to the director of Student Health Services, Janice Vermeychuk, there are cases of the H1N1 virus, more commonly known as swine flu, on campus.

“We were able to confirm cases of H1N1 on campus through testing of samples by the N.J. state laboratory,” Vermeychuk said. She did not have a number of cases.

The College is applying for the 2009 H1N1 flu vaccine from the federal government and if the College is approved as a centralized distribution center for H1N1 vaccination, Health Services will offer this vaccine as soon as it’s received, she said.

The government is estimating delivery in late October or early November. It will be free, and two doses, separated by 21 days, will be needed.

This vaccine is recommended for ages six months to 24 years of age, so students are the target for it, Vermeychuk said.

According to Vermeychuk, one of the things the College’s Critical Incident Planning Group (CIPG) is urging this year on campus is self-quarantining, which means when a student or teacher is ill, he or she stays away from others and doesn’t go to class.

“It won’t be easy and this will all be on the honor system — there will be no flu police,” Vermeychuk said.

“We will all have to take personal responsibility for ourselves. It will be our civic duty to stay away from other people if we develop flu symptoms,” she said.

Vermeychuk defines flu symptoms as a fever of 100 degrees Fahrenheit or more and a cough or sore throat. She suggests staying away from others until the fever has been gone for a full 24 hours.  “Stay in your room for three to five days or longer and don’t leave except for medical necessities (wearing a face mask),” she said.

According to Matthew Golden, executive director of Public Relations and Communication, the campus community will be notified of cases of H1N1 if flu activity on campus would create some sort of disturbance or health threat to the community. But, Golden said, a few confirmed cases don’t warrant notification according to the Center for Disease Control (CDC). According to the CDC, about 60 percent of the U.S. population will contract some form of the flu this year.

According to Vermeychuk, the CDC says one difference between 2009 H1N1 influenza and seasonal influenza is that adults older than 64 do not yet appear to be at increased risk to H1N1 so far.

This is especially relevant for the College community because H1N1 mostly affects people younger than 25-years-old. About one-third of adults over 60 may have antibodies against H1N1.

“Because of this, and because 2009 H1N1 flu is more contagious than seasonal influenza, we expect to see lots of cases of flu-like illness this year,” Vermeychuk said.

“The CIPG with the support of President R. Barbara Gitenstein, Provost Carol Bresnahan, Vice President James Norfleet, Student Affairs, and other cabinet officers has been meeting throughout the summer, and has developed a strategic plan to deal with influenza,” Vermeychuk said.

The College has moved up its seasonal flu clinics from October to September.  They will be held in the Student Center on Sept. 17, 23, 29 and Oct.1. See the Health Services  web page for times at tcnj.edu/~sa/health/flushot.html.

Students with the Student Health Insurance Plan (SHIP) will also be able to get the flu shot for free at these clinics (students without SHIP have to pay 20 dollars) and FluMist, the nasal vaccine, is available at the last two clinics for only ten dollars for students with SHIP and 30 dollars for students without it.

“Students sometimes tell me that they are healthy and will take their chances — I always remind students to not just think about themselves but those around them when considering flu vaccination — people who would be at high risk for complications if they got the flu.,” she said. “I get a flu shot to protect my patients, my 89 year old father, my husband who has diabetes, my daughter-in-law who has asthma — I get vaccinated for them.”