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H1N1 vaccine expected to arrive soon

Sarah Mervosh | Wednesday, November 4, 2009

As the number of presumed H1N1 cases on campus totals 659 since the beginning of August, Notre Dame hopes to receive vaccines to treat the virus in the near future, Director of University Health Services Ann Kleva said.

“We wish we knew. Everyday we hope we’re going to get some,” Kleva said. “Within the next few days, or within the end of next week, we hope to receive some.”

When the shipment arrives, students or faculty who are pregnant, regularly interact with children less than 6 months old and students under 24 with an underlying illness will be the first priority for vaccination.

Underlying illnesses like diabetes, heart disease and asthma make students under 24 eligibly for priority vaccination. After this high priority group is treated, vaccinations will be available to all students under 24, Kleva said.

Kleva said the number of doses the University receives will affect who will be able to receive the shot.

“We have no idea the number of doses we’re going to receive. It could be as little as 50 or it could be as much as 500,” she said. “It will be first come first serve.”

 “We’ll do the best possible thing to get them out as quickly as it arrives in on campus,” she said. “We already have plans in place. We have rooms that are already being reserved. In a short period of time we can get staffs together and be prepared.”

Kleva said everyone who wants a vaccination will be able to receive one eventually, but it is a matter of time before enough vaccines are received.

“There will be enough for everyone eventually, but they will not be a priority group,” she said.

Kleva said she does not know the exact number of confirmed H1N1 cases on campus because the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) did not have the resources to test each case.

“There are so many coming in, they can’t test it,” she said. “CDC tells us, if you have an influenza-like illness, then we are to presume that you have H1N1 and treat it as such.”
Influenza-like symptoms include a fever of at least 100 degrees, a cough and/or a sore throat, Kleva said.

Out of 2,339 upper respiratory illnesses reported to the Health Center from Aug. 2 to Nov. 2, 659 were presumed to be the H1N1 virus, she said.

Though H1N1 seems to spread more easily than the regular flu, its symptoms are generally milder and the recovery period is shorter, she said.

“I think this flu is highly contagious. We are going to see more pupils coming down with the flu than maybe the seasonal flu,” Kleva said.

She advised students to cover their mouth with their sleeve when coughing and wash hands often in order to prevent the spread of the H1N1 virus.

“But as far as the seriousness of the illness, the symptoms have been less severe and the recovery period is shorter for H1N1,” she said.

While it usually takes one to two weeks to recover from the seasonal flu, students are recovering from the H1N1 virus in four to seven days, Kleva said.

The University has not had any H1N1 cases that have resulted in hospitalization, she said.

When the vaccines for H1N1 come in, Kleva said students ought to get the vaccination, but she also recognized that it is a personal decision.

“It’s really an individual person’s decision. I wouldn’t make a decision for anyone,” she said. “Personally, I feel that this vaccine is like any other seasonal flu vaccine.

“The risk of receiving the shot is less than the benefit of receiving the vaccination against the influenza,” she said.

Kleva said an e-mail will be sent to the student body detailing availability and priority groups when the first shipment of vaccinations arrives.