Students need to know how to approach H1N1 virus
Despite the fact that swine flu, or influenza H1N1, has become a worldwide pandemic that tends to target those under 25 years of age, University students need to relax and take the following prescription: chill pills.Allow me to re-educate you. Every year roughly between the months of November to April is flu season. During these months, the latest strain of influenza tends to infect people at a peak rate. Influenza, or "flu" for short, goes though constant genetic variations. Over time, the changes in the genetic makeup behind the flu virus can accumulate, causing the overall structure and function of the flu virus to change. Thus, the flu virus can change yearly, and as a result, a new vaccine is required yearly to help fight off the season's strain of influenza.Unfortunately for all of humanity, this year's seasonal flu virus is a bit tougher than previous strains.H1N1 is the result of genetic components from birds, pigs and humans. In a very rare phenomenon, four different strains of influenza attacked the same target, got mashed up through a process called reassortment, and the result in an extremely virulent, extremely contagious version of the flu. You know if you have the swine flu if you have the following symptoms: fever above 100OF, coughing, sore throat, sometimes runny nose, body aches, headache, chills, fatigue, diarrhea and vomiting.What does this mean to people in the United States? at the University? It means we need to change our lifestyle habits and practices to accommodate for this new challenge. Fellow students, please commit to doing the following:Wash your hands. By doing so, one helps to slow down the spread of viruses and bacteria. The eyes, nose and throat are prime areas for virus entry into the body and hands tend to contact these areas commonly. What this means is that if I see another person not wash their hands after using the bathroom at the campus center, a trashcan might come flying.Use common sense. If someone nearby sneezes, rubs their nose and mouth with their hand, then approaches you with a handshake, you have my approval to back away in disgust and perhaps even run. Kidding aside, be polite but be firm in how you deal with others, especially if you suspect that people in your environment are sick.Stay home if you get sick. Currently, the supported protocol to follow if you believe you have come down with the flu is to stay home for 24 hours to allow the fever to pass. Rest and get fluids. Use acetaminophen or ibuprofen to handle the fever. Afterwards, it is safe for you to return to your normal schedule. But please, I beg of you, do not come into class with a fever, even if you have three exams to take or you want to make it to the Jack's Mannequin concert on the 21 for the sake of those around you, their well being and yours, especially if you get them sick and they know it.Keep the immune system strong. Get enough sleep, try to eat every day and in a timely manner and listen to your body. I'm a student and I've pulled the all-nighters, eaten so poorly that one would think I was raised in a developing Third World nation, and I've disregarded my tired and hungry body to pursue other necessities, such as rock banding or catching the "House" marathon on TV. I've been there and I know, but this is not the time for that type of living.Get vaccinated — and early. Do this for both the season flu as well as the novel H1N1 flu strain. The latter vaccine will be given by the University free of charge sometime in late October. Pay attention to e-mails for more information.If you do get sick, you can go see a doctor. You may be tested, and if the results come back positive there are drugs that can assist to reduce the symptoms and increase recovery time against H1N1. However, this is not necessary. Your body will be able to fight off the virus on its own. I want to stress this because our nation's hospitals are usually thinly staffed, and with the oncoming outbreak, hospitalization should be sought in response to a flu-related complication. But even with the slightest indication that your condition is worsening, go see a doctor immediately.
John Wildman is a School of Arts and Sciences senior majoring in genetics.