With H1N1 influenza continuing to affect students, and the annual onslaught of seasonal flu threatening to rear its ugly head, colleges across the state are pumping up influenza prevention efforts.
In an Oct. 5 update on the University Health Center's Flu Update Web site, medical director Ronald Forehand said 1,113 students were seen with influenza-like illness.
The update mentions a per-week decrease in the number of people with influenza symptoms, but Forehand cautions students against trying to interpret this as a trend.
"This week, for instance, the number of cases seems to be increasing again," he told The Red & Black Thursday. "I expect these 'waves' of disease will continue and probably increase in the winter."
"I expect that this disease will persist on campus for quite some time. It should slow down dramatically when most students develop immunity either by having the infection - not the desired way - or by obtaining the vaccines, which is the preferred and safest way to achieve immunity," he said.
Stephen Brown, associate dean of student services for Mercer University's Macon campus, told The Red & Black there were 105 suspected cases of influenza-like illness at Mercer as of Oct. 2.
Brown said students seem to be calming down since the original pandemic announcement.
"The number of students calling the Student Health Center with questions or symptoms has decreased over the past three weeks," he said. "This is congruent with the trend reported by the American College Health Association."
Gina Thurman, assistant dean of students at Augusta State University, was unsure of an accurate case number, as there is no health center on ASU's campus. She did say the most students out due to flu-like symptoms at one time were 13.
Georgia College and State University also was unsure of an accurate amount of H1N1 cases, as health services cannot send out tests to the Georgia Division of Public Health.
"All of ours have been potential cases," Alice Loper, director of health services at GCSU, said in a telephone interview Thursday. "That's what we're told to do since this is not flu season."
Loper said 125 students had been sent home from health services since the last week in August, but said there was no way to fully account for ill students who went home on their own.
Innovative public education campaigns have been going on at all of these universities since school started in August.
"We do have a Facebook group and hope to start a Twitter group soon," Liz Rachun, public relations coordinator for the University Health Center, told The Red & Black Thursday. "To join, you need to search University of Georgia Health Center, and if you're not a fan yet, please consider becoming one."
A common trend in these awareness campaigns is creating special H1N1 Web sites linked to main university sites, featuring up-to-date information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and personal touches for each school.
"Our nursing department created a video on how you should wash your hands and help prevent the spread of the flu," Thurman said.
Loper said GCSU's H1N1 Web site featured one of its doctors rapping about influenza awareness.
In addition to fliers and online resources, the universities are including tangible prevention techniques in their flu awareness campaigns.
The University's campaign advises students to "spread the word, not the flu." Loper said GCSU asked its students to "protect, don't infect."
To keep Bobcat students as protected as possible, Loper said health services were putting educational videos on the Bobcat Vision television channel, giving students Lysol wipes to clean computers in common lab areas, and putting hand sanitizer "anywhere we could think of."
She also said health educator speakers were invited to speak to on-campus groups, including freshman seminars and Greek life organizations.
Mercer and ASU are also using more hand sanitizer and disinfecting wipes.
On Thursday, Thurman said ASU hosted a health fair, during which students could get seasonal influenza vaccines, sign up to receive H1N1 vaccines and learn about the two illnesses.
The symptoms of swine flu are the same, whether students are Georgia Bulldogs or Mercer Bears - but their ability to receive an on-campus H1N1 influenza shot is not.
"We [at UGA] requested a very large supply of H1N1 vaccine from [the] Department of Public Health, who is controlling distribution and delivery," Forehand said. "We hope to have it on hand soon, but they have not provided a delivery date."
Forehand said as soon as the vaccine arrives on campus, the Health Center will begin a robust awareness campaign to alert students of its availability.
Thurman said the 500 students living in university housing at ASU would be the highest priority to receive the vaccine, though it will be offered to any student who wants it. She also said the ASU Athletic Department plans to purchase vaccines specifically for Jaguar athletes.
Georgia Southern University expects to receive its H1N1 vaccines during the last two weeks in October, according to a flier provided by Paul Ferguson, director of health services.
Some Georgia schools, however, are still in limbo, unsure of whether or not they will receive any H1N1 vaccines.
"We have applied to be a [vaccine] distribution site, but we haven't heard yet if we're getting any," Loper said. She said GCSU would follow CDC guidelines to determine priority for the vaccine.
Mercer is in a similar situation - Brown said the university was collaborating with the Georgia Division of Public Health to secure some of the vaccines.
"We have some educational programs that will require priority, such as our medical school, our nursing school and our pharmacy school," he said.
Gerard Kowalski, executive director of University Housing, said in a telephone interview Friday he is "very impressed with the response of residence hall communities" when handling H1N1.
"The major message is that we need to keep reiterating that if students aren't feeling well, they need to take care of themselves," he said. "They should be following the University's theme of spreading the word - not the flu." http://www.redandblack.com/home/index.c ... 8332276d6f