Following months of precautionary measures like isolating sick students, the installation of 200 new hand sanitizers, and a scrapped eco-friendly paper-towel removal plan, the presence of H1N1 and other influenza-like illnesses appears to have subsided on campus according to the University Health Center. Although the H1N1 vaccine initially arrived on campus last November in limited supply and was restricted to only high-risk cases, the Health Center is now offering four free H1N1 vaccine clinics during the first several weeks of the spring semester to all students, faculty, and staff.
“Now there’s no risk category,” said Director of the University Health Center Joyce Walter. “There are no limits to who can get the vaccine.”
Despite the increase in availability, only 27 individuals came to the first clinic on Tuesday and 50 more were vaccinated yesterday. The Health Center has vaccinated 260 individuals so far. Two more clinics are scheduled in the following weeks.
While there is no clear reason for the relatively low demand for the vaccine, Walter said that many students might have received the vaccine at free clinics held in Middletown or while they were home over winter break.
The Health Center currently has 200 doses on hand, but the vaccine is now readily available and can be ordered and delivered from the State within several days if demand increases.
Although there have been no reported cases of influenza-like illness so far this semester, Medical Director Dr. Davis Smith said that a third wave of the H1N1 pandemic is foreseeable. The pandemic has surfaced in two waves so far according to the State of Connecticut Flu Watch Site: the first lasting from April 2009 to Aug. 29, 2009 and the second from Aug. 30, 2009 to Jan. 26, 2010.
“We’re getting into the time frame that we would expect [the third wave of the H1N1 pandemic] to come,” Smith said. “This is also the time frame of seasonal flu. However, we don’t have any reason to think that it will be doubly bad.”
The Health Center has considered toning down their approach to curbing the spread of the virus; however, guidelines from the Connecticut State Health Department still indicate that measures such as isolating individuals displaying influenza-like symptoms are necessary.
“Do we need to continue to be so aggressive with isolating students displaying symptoms?” Smith said. “The feeling is still ‘yes.’ A relative minority of people have been vaccinated and even people who are high risk haven’t all been vaccinated.”
The Health Center is still asking that students who are experiencing influenza-like symptoms call in before coming into the Health Center as a preventive measure. In the case of a third wave of H1N1 on campus, the Health Center plans to follow the same guidelines it adhered to during the first two waves of the illness.
“We have a good feeling for how to do this sort of thing,” Walter said. “We won’t be caught off guard.”