Lawrence campus responds to swine flu epidemic

Amy Sandquist

In the midst of public fear and media hype, information about the rapidly spreading H1N1 virus remains accessible on campus. According to the Appleton Post-Crescent, there are currently 26 confirmed cases of the swine flu in Wisconsin, including one case in nearby Green Bay. However, the rapid spread of the virus combined with the ease with which illness spreads throughout college campuses has put the Lawrence administration and university health center staff on alert.
Dean of Students Nancy Truesdell reported that Lawrence’s crisis management group has met several times to review and discuss the campus pandemic protocol. Truesdell said that the group, which works with the Outagamie County Public Health Division, will continue to monitor the spread of H1N1 and take all necessary actions to ensure that Lawrence students remain healthy.
Director of Health Services Susie Muenster explained that the rapid spread of this particular viral strain accounts for much of the fear surrounding H1N1. Unlike with other more established strains of influenza, there has been no time to develop a preventative vaccine for H1N1. However, Muenster credited the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for “jumping on the virus in time” and for dispersing information about the virus and about disease prevention.
Muenster said that the professional and swift way in which the CDC addressed the crisis has allowed Lawrence to adequately prepare for the potential consequences of the virus.
Muenster reported that the Lawrence crisis management group is “holding and watching what develops.” Meanwhile, Muenster urges students to maintain healthy living habits. Muenster calls simple habits like hand-washing, getting enough rest, and eating balanced meals “vital” to preserving health, particularly in the midst of a pandemic.
Lawrence’s administration has taken steps to provide students with the materials and information needed to prevent the spread of H1N1. Recently, an e-mail alert containing information about H1N1’s symptoms and advice about remaining healthy went out to the entire campus community.
Informative signs have been posted in residence halls and other places around campus to ensure that people are aware of the threat, and hand sanitizer has been placed in what Truesdell described as “high traffic locations” on campus.
Truesdell also addressed concerns about study abroad in Mexico, saying that Lawrence currently has no students studying in the country and that those expected to travel to Mexico have been contacted and will be kept up to date about the status of their programs.
So far, no one at Lawrence has shown symptoms of H1N1, which are typical flu symptoms accompanied by an unusually high fever, generally of 103 degrees Fahrenheit or above.
Testing for the virus involves a special throat swab test that the Lawrence health center does not provide. If a Lawrentian does display these symptoms, he or she will be sent to a local clinic for H1N1 testing.
Muenster cautions students to take the threat seriously, but she also suggested staying away from sensationalized media reports about the pandemic. She recommended the CDC Web site for its updated, comprehensive information about the virus.
Ultimately, both Muenster and Truesdell stressed that the best way for students to avoid illness is for them to monitor their health and take care of themselves.