More than 700 at UMD Have Reported Flu Symptoms, as Season Hits Early
Flu shot preparation / Newsline photo by Kelly Brooks
Dr. Sacared Bodison, University of Maryland Health Center director, says the students exhibiting flu-like symptoms are significantly ill for about three or four days, then rebound quickly. (Photo by Maryland Newsline's Kelly Brooks)

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Learn more about the flus through this interactive quiz from Maryland Newsline..

By Kelly Brooks
Maryland Newsline
Friday, Oct. 2, 2009

COLLEGE PARK, Md. - Flu season has arrived early at the University of Maryland.

More than 700 students had exhibited flu-like symptoms by Sept. 29, said Health Center Director Dr. Sacared Bodison. It's likely many of them have H1N1, she said.

Normally, the flu doesn't flare up on campus until spring semester, Bodison said.

The campus isn't alone with the early arrival of the flu. Twenty-six states, including Maryland, had reported widespread flu activity as of Sept. 25, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The official start of the flu season is Oct. 4.

Between Sept. 13 and 19, 99 percent of subtyped influenza A viruses reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention were H1N1 viruses, according to the CDC's new weekly flu report. The reports, posted on the CDC Web site, include information on the number of respiratory specimens tested for influenza by World Health Organization and National Respiratory and Enteric Virus Surveillance System laboratories across the country.

Bodison said that of a sampling of 10 students with flu-like symptoms who were tested on campus, all tested positive for H1N1. The presumption, she said, is if a student is exhibiting "all the typical flu symptoms, that it's more than likely H1N1."

In a brief question and answer session, Bodison explained more about the flus.

How similar is H1N1 to regular seasonal flu?
A: It seems actually milder than regular seasonal flu.

How is the recovery process going for ill students?
A: It's going very well. The students are significantly ill for about three or four days and then they seem to rebound quickly.

What suggestions do you have for students to prevent catching the flu?
A: We have a simple message, and that is everyone needs to take some personal responsibility for avoiding illness by washing their hands and coughing into their elbows and using hand sanitizer as much as possible and staying home when they're ill.

When will the university receive the H1N1 vaccine?
A: Hopefully sometime in October.

What will the vaccine cost students?
A: Very minimal. The vaccine itself is free, and there will be a small injection fee.

What are the university's specific plans on distribution of the H1N1 vaccine once it's available?
A: Once the vaccine is available it will be distributed focusing on the highest-risk groups per CDC guidelines. ... Young people up to age 24, people who are pregnant and people with underlying significant chronic illnesses.

Are there any concerns going into this flu season?
A: The concern is a surge in numbers and our ability to be able to serve and care for that number of people. The volume of folks that would be coming through, that would be the major concern.

The university is offering seasonal flu shots at Ritchie Coliseum Oct. 15. Would you recommend students try to get shots there?
A: We encourage students to take advantage of that. ... We will offer the seasonal flu vaccine at no charge to participants in that drill. (The vaccine costs $12 otherwise.)

Will there be a similar drill with the H1N1 vaccine?

A: Currently we're not planning another drill, so we'll probably be offering it through our regular clinics.

According to the CDC, people who become ill with flu-like symptoms-- including fever, body aches, runny or stuffy nose, sore throat, nausea, or vomiting or diarrhea-- should avoid contact with others. The CDC recommends staying home for at least 24 hours after fevers are gone, except to get medical care. People with severe illness or those at high risk for flu complications should contact their health care providers or seek medical care.

Copyright 2009 University of Maryland Philip Merrill College of Journalism

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