Resources for Campus Administrators, Students and Others
Why is this flu epidemic different from all the other flu epidemics?
In a normal year, about 38,000 Americans die from influenza or complications associated with influenza. There are about 226,000 hospitalizations. So even in a normal year, influenza is a problem. What is different now? And how will it affect colleges of osteopathic medicine?
The influenza virus constantly mutates. When the changes are minor, it is called an antigenic drift. With small changes in the virus, the number of people who will get sick increases a small amount.
If the changes are large, it is called an antigenic shift, and the changes in the number of people affected will be much greater and the disease much worse.
The H1N1 virus represents an antigenic shift. So we can expect that a lot more people will get sick and need hospitalization.
With little previous exposure to this kind of influenza virus, large numbers of Americans may get sick all at once, with the disease active in our society for a period of several months.
H1 flu viruses tend to be milder flu illnesses than H5 flu viruses. But if large numbers of individuals are affected simultaneously, then even if people don't die, the virus will disrupt the ability of schools to continue as usual.
How do we protect ourselves, our students and our staffs while working with people infected with swine flu? The resources linked to this web site (Useful H1N1 Links and H1N1 Presentations) aim to help answer that question.
Just a few last thoughts:
Health care professionals, including students, are considered a high-risk group for flu and should be vaccinated prior to seeing patients.
It takes at least two weeks for the flu vaccine to be effective in generating immunity, and the immunity lasts for about six months.
The virus is spread through close contact, which is defined as within six feet of an infected person. While less likely, spread of the virus may occur at greater distances.