Walking into Florida A&M University’s Student Health Clinic, it is not easy to ignore the roped off section of students coughing into the fabric of light blue surgical masks, secured tightly behind their ears.
As predicted by the university’s administration and health officials, the H1N1 virus, also known as swine flu, has started its surge on the Hill.
“The university is seeing strains of the H1N1 virus among the student body, but the number cases can’t be confirmed at this time,” said Tanya Tatum, director of Student Health.
Long before students filled FAMU dormitories and classrooms of the university, there were campaigns to inform Rattlers about the seriousness of the virus.
Door hangers and posters can be found in residence halls and other facilities around the university.
A health alert has also been posted on the campus website and brochures have been made to inform the administration, faculty and students about the virus.
Students who have strains of the flu are being relocated and put in isolation in the housing facilities on campus. Accommodations have been made to deliver meals to students on and off campus who are in isolation.
Until the vaccination arrives, Rattlers are asked by health officials to follow good hygiene practices: washing your hands several times a day or using hand sanitizers and using clean tissue to cover your mouth or nose while coughing or sneezing.
Some signs and symptoms of the H1N1 VIRUS include fever over 100 degrees, cough, sore throat, fatigue, loss of appetite and in some cases vomiting and diarrhea.
Tatum encourages anyone with these symptoms to seek aid at the Health Clinic or any local doctor’s office. In addition, it is advised that anyone with symptoms stay home for at least the first seven days in isolation.
A number of students have been called into the Student Health Clinic because they could have been exposed to the virus from previous roommates.
Some students are concerned about the isolation.
“I hope they aren’t putting students with a low grade of flu with people who are sicker than they are” said Byron Jenkins, freshman business administration student from Tampa, Fla.
All over the United States colleges and universities alike are testing students for possible cases of the swine flu.
Last Monday, the White House released a report from the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology stating that the H1N1 virus could infect between 30 and 50 percent of the American population during the fall and winter. That could lead to as many as 1.8 million U.S. hospital admissions.
The report also stated that 30,000 to 90,000 deaths are projected to occur across the nation due to large outbreaks at schools, inadequate antiviral supplies and the virus peaking before vaccination have time to be effective.
The vaccination will consist of two shots, spaced three weeks apart, which will take a week or two after the second dose before immunity kicks in. That’s a total of five or six weeks.
Several students are making plans so that they won’t catch the flu.
“As students we should be proactive by being aware of people coughing around us and washing our hands or using hand sanitizer,” said Lawrence Williams from Randallstown, Md.
“It’s hard to predict just how many students will get affected by the virus,” Tatum said. “It’s going to be a challenge because it’s not flu season. We are expecting to get hit twice.”
“We are asking that everyone take proper precautions to help prevent the spread of flu on campus,” Tatum said.
There have been 2,915 confirmed cases in Florida, according to the Florida Department of Health.