Yesterday the University of South Florida Polytechnic community learned two cases of H1N1 (often called swine flu) have been reported on campus. Fortunately, both employees are recovering. However, given what communities have seen in terms of the fast spread of this illness, as well as the return of students to school and the pending arrival of the regular flu season, USFP has taken this matter seriously. Faculty and staff have been advised to take great caution with their health, and the university will continue to provide updates regarding this public safety health issue.
USFP also took advantage of a nearby expert in infectious diseases. To learn more about the pandemic H1N1 virus, we talked to Daniel Haight, M.D., director of the Polk County Health Department, which promotes and protects the health of Polk County residents and visitors. He is also an assistant professor of medicine in the Division of Infectious Diseases and International Medicine at the USF College of Medicine. Board certified in internal medicine and infectious diseases, he serves on staff at Tampa General Hospital.
Q: What is the most important thing people should know about the H1N1 virus?
A: The key message I tell people is that this flu is everywhere. It’s unstoppable but it can be slowed. By sharing information we can be part of the solution. This information should spread virally. If it spreads as fast as the virus, we’ll have the best chance of getting through this without a major problem.
Q: What are the symptoms of H1N1?
A: Some people report vomiting, diarrhea and nausea. Otherwise the symptoms are the same as with the old, seasonal flu: high fever, body shakes and sore throat. Severe symptoms include shortness of breath and extremely high fever.
Q: Who is at greatest risk?
A: People at greater risk include those with lung disease, diabetes, a heart condition, or people who are very overweight pregnant, recently pregnant or very young. These underlying conditions put you at greater risk. People over age 60 seem to have some protection due to exposure to a similar virus many years ago.
Q: What should people do if they think they have the H1N1 virus?
A: Initially seek medical advice by phone. We don’t want people with mild flu to rush out to a crowded doctor’s office, where they could make someone else sick. If you’re sick, stay home until 24 hours after your last fever unless you work in health care. If you’re sick, your supervisor would much rather have you at home than have you come to the office and end up with three other people sick.
Q: How important is washing your hands and using hand sanitizer?
A: More important than using them is using them effectively. You can’t just slap some soap on the center of your palm and rinse it off right away. You must make sure your fingertips are washed with soap for a significant period of time. The same is true with alcohol-based hand gels.
Q: What else can we do to prevent flu?
A: Keep your hands out of your eyes! If you look in a mirror and-with clean hands-gently pull down your lower eyelid you’ll see a small hole on the edge of your eyelid near your nose. That leads to a tunnel that runs behind your nose to the back of your throat. When you rub your eyes with contaminated hands you put millions of germs in your eyes, and they can easily lead to infection.
Q: Is an H1N1 vaccine available?
A: Not yet. A vaccine is being developed and is expected this fall, possibly by October. This new vaccine might require two doses a few weeks apart. When it becomes available, those who face the greatest risk will probably receive it first.
USFP is providing sanitizing wipes to each department so that you can sanitize phones, keyboards, and door knobs. Hand sanitizers are available in all buildings around campus. For updates and links to additional H1N1 resources visit http://usfweb2.usf.edu/hr/NewsAnnouncements/Swine-Flu.html
Coordinator, Media Relations
University of South Florida Polytechnic
3433 Winter Lake Rd.
Lakeland, FL 33803
Phone: (863) 667-7077
Cell: (863) 286-9450
Fax: (863) 667-7960