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21 September 2009

H1N1 flu rate rises at UM

While sitting in class on Sept. 8, Lolisa Wallace, a junior, received a text message. It wasn’t from any of her friends or family members; the sender was the University of Miami Health Center asking her to come in.

“At first I wasn’t even going to go in,” Wallace said. “I didn’t want to be put in quarantine.”

While Wallace was perfectly healthy, it was her suite mate who had a severe case of the flu. Within hours of determining the severity of her symptoms and asking her to socially isolate, the Health Center asked the other inhabitants of the suite to come in as well.

“They just basically said, ‘you guys just stay away from her and if you have any symptoms, just come in,’” Wallace said.

“No one has the official power to quarantine,” said Dr. Howard Anapol, director of student health services. “We’re asking students to socially isolate themselves.

From the beginning of the semester, the number of reported influenza-like illnesses on campus has gone up. These include any illness with symptoms that include fever, coughing and a sore throat.

The number of people who have come in to the Health Center with these symptoms went up from several daily cases to ten or more cases a day. Most of them end up being the common flu, but so far three out of the first 15 suspected of being H1N1 have been confirmed as such.

So far, the cases that have come in range from mild to moderate in severity and resolve themselves without any specific medical treatment, except those with underlying medical conditions.

While many illnesses usually target the elderly, the young or the already weakened, Anapol explained that influenza-like illnesses target people in the college age range. Older adults already have prior immunity to these illeness.

“Any social crowding will increase the likelihood of transmission,” Anapol said.

Anapol added that students should abide by the guidelines that have been set up by the university in order to protect themselves, their peers, and the community. This also includes getting the flu vaccine available for free to the UM community at the Health Center.