Swine flu lingers, vaccine on the way

Students are flooding the school’s clinic and local hospitals in fear of contracting the swine flu.

Florida A&M University and the Tallahassee Memorial Hospital are preparing for the worst as the swine flu continues to spread.

Fortunately, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the swine flu vaccine should arrive by mid-October and students are advised to take precautionary steps in their daily activities until then.

Physicians are seeing people daily who are in search or answers.

“There’s a need for precaution, but I don’t think people need to panic, it’s contagious, but most won’t die from it,” said Tanya Tatum, director of FAMU student health services.     
However, due to the high volume of students with flu-like symptoms, students are being seen based on the severity of their illnesses.

“They had me wait forever and tested me for the swine flu without any symptoms. I was only sneezing and coughing with a normal temperature and I was charged $14,” said Tiara Lyons, a 19-year-old general studies student from Fort Lauderdale.

Many students are prescribed drugs to treat their symptoms.

“We get hundreds of patients, but we don’t test anymore because it’s too prevalent, we treat symptomatically,” said Alyssa Pickles, TMH’s director of infection control.

The CDC advises that people isolate themselves if they come down with the flu.  FAMU has taken steps to enforce the importance of self-isolation in order to minimize the spread of the H1N1 virus.

“When students are diagnosed with any form of the flu they are given the option to move into apartments away from their roommates and others,” Tatum said. “There are two apartments set up for those who are sick.”

The apartments are located in Palmetto South and Phase III with six beds in each.

“There are also plans being made to accommodate for the expected high absentee rate and staff shortage that may occur due to the H1N1 virus,” said Tatum. “There are a number of plans to adjust operation based on what we’re seeing.

Tatum also said she’s exploring the idea for a 24-hour nurse hotline to help students with medical questions after hours.

The Florida Health Service has four exam rooms and enough nurses to run effectively. However, in a high volume surge. Tatum said they do not have enough space or staff.

Fortunately, TMH is equipped and ready in the case of an emergency.

“There is a pandemic plan, alternative treatment sites to treat patients, surge plans, stock filled with personnel equipment and treatment medication,” Pickles said.
With infected people increasing health service providers are creating plans to prepare for the H1N1.

FAMU has experienced 80 cases of Type A since April.

According to health care officials, individuals who are at-risk are recommended to get vaccinated.

These people include women who are pregnant, health care and emergency personnel, people with long-term health problems, children from six months to 18 years old and individuals who are 50 years and older.

“Those not at risk will have to wait to receive the vaccine,” Pickles said. “The federal government is providing the vaccine for free so the only fee should be the administrative fee.”

Luckily, there will be no fee for the vaccine.  A health services fee is already included in a FAMU student’s tuition.

With the necessary precautions and expert advice, students will overcome the H1N1.

“Stay home if you’re sick and treat your symptoms with over-the-counter medications,” Pickles said. “Try to keep a tool kit, so you have one when you get sick.”