Though last year’s hysteria of the H1N1 virus or “swine flu” is long over, the flu is spreading across campus again — including the H1N1 strain.
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention reported Jan. 1 that flu activity was increasing across the country. Sixteen states reported regional flu activity, while eight states, including New York, reported widespread geographic flu activity.
Laura Keefe, manager of health center operations at the Hammond Health Center, said so far this year the center has diagnosed 58 students with “influenza-like symptoms.” Twelve cases have been confirmed with laboratory testing, and nine have been confirmed as H1N1 by the New York State Department of Health.
Heather Stone, Gannett Health Services public health communications specialist, said since the start of the spring semester, there have been 157 diagnosed cases of the flu at Cornell University.
Dr. Erin Hall-Rhoades, assistant director of health services at the Health Center, said she wasn’t expecting to see the H1N1 strain.
“There is never a year when you don’t expect the seasonal flu, but most of the state has been seeing H3,” Hall-Rhoades said. “It was a little surprising for us to be seeing H1N1.”
Sophomore Leah Bianco was diagnosed Friday at the Health Center with the flu and said being sick prevented her from competing in a track meet Saturday.
“I had a cough, fever, aches all over, chills and really bad sinus pressure,” Bianco said. “I missed all my classes Friday, but luckily I had the weekend to recover.”
Keefe said though last year H1N1 vaccines were separate from the seasonal flu vaccine, the two types have been combined into one shot this year. More than 700 seasonal flu vaccines have been administered at the college.
Karen Bishop, supervising community health nurse for the Tompkins County Health Department, said flu cases spike at this time of year and taper off by spring.
“We see more flu incidents here when both the Ithaca College and Cornell campuses come alive the second semester,” she said. “[Flu season] can last well into April.”
Bishop said for those who know they have the flu, the sooner they get evaluated by a health care professional, the more effective antiviral treatment will be.
Hall-Rhoades said the best prevention is the vaccine.
“Immunization rates are lower than we would like among college students,” she said. “It’s not too late to get immunized.”
The Health Center is offering flu shots to the campus community between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. Friday. Call 274-3177 with questions.