Purdue reports first case of suspected H1N1, lists precaution measures

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — The Purdue Student Health Center on Sunday (Aug. 30) reported its first case of suspected H1N1 type A influenza (swine flu). The student has been isolated and is undergoing treatment.

An electron microscope image shows an H1N1 swine flu virus culture obtained from a California patient suffering from the current outbreak. (CDC)

An electron microscope image shows an H1N1 swine flu virus culture obtained from a California patient suffering from the current outbreak. (CDC)

James Westman, director of the Purdue Student Health Center, said the patient also has been advised about steps to take to help prevent spreading the flu.

Those steps include:

  • If you are ill with influenza, do not attend class or go to work. If you are a student, know ahead of time what the absence policy is. Contact your professors, instructors or employers to let them know you are ill.
  • If you live in a Purdue residence hall, let your residence hall advisor know and food can be delivered to your room.
  • Stay home at least 24 hours after your temperature returns to normal without the aid of medicine.

For those living with an ill person, Westman says, “Be helpful but keep your distance. Risk can be lessened if the sick or well person leaves for seven or more days. In addition, the sick person can wear a mask to avoid spreading the disease through coughing or sneezing.”

As with most viruses, flu is spread primarily by coughs and sneezes that spread the virus on surfaces that others touch, transferring the virus by hand to their nose, mouth or eyes. To increase the chances of staying healthy and helping prevent spread, he suggests:

  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth.
  • Cough into your sleeve or a tissue to prevent spreading germs. Do not cough into your hands. Dispose of tissues in a wastebasket.
  • Wash your hands with soap under warm running water for 20 seconds and rinse your hands well. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • Dry your hands using a paper towel or air dryer. If possible, use the paper towel to turn off the faucet and turn the doorknob. Be sure your hands are dry before directly touching anything.
  • Consider getting a vaccination against the seasonal flu as soon as they become available on campus. While they will not protect against H1N1, they will protect against previously known flu strains.

More ways to minimize risk can be found at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Web site on homecare at http://www.cdc.gov/h1n1flu/guidance_homecare.htm

Flu symptoms usually appear 24-48 hours after exposure to the virus, and people remain contagious for seven days after the onset of symptoms.

Basic flu symptoms include fever, cough, sore throat, fatigue, chills and body aches. Seek emergency care immediately if you experience any of the following symptoms:

  • Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
  • Pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen
  • Sudden dizziness
  • Confusion
  • Severe or persistent vomiting

Although most cases have been mild, H1N1 is unlike seasonal flu. H1N1 is a novel virus, and most have no immunity. The CDC predicts that up to 40 percent of those on campus could become ill with this new virus. And while H1N1 has not been an especially lethal virus so far, the CDC says it has the potential to become so.

“Vaccines are being developed for H1N1, but we expect the first shipment no sooner than late October, and then more are expected to follow,” said Carol Shelby, senior director of environmental health and public safety. “We have identified three sites on campus at which we could offer inoculations. We’re told that we likely will need to administer two doses.”

Westman added, “Let’s look out for one another. If you know of anyone who has flulike symptoms, urge them to contact their health-care provider. Also let others know. Tell your residence hall assistants and leaders in fraternities, sororities and co-ops so they can help.”

Updated information from Purdue and government agencies is available at http://www.purdue.edu/fluinfo. A link also can be found at the bottom left of the Purdue home page.

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