One year after H1N1

Adam Zaleski

Around this time last year, the country was in panic over the newly discovered H1N1 flu virus that caused widespread sickness and death around the world. Looking back, was the hysteria justified? And should we still be concerned?

Mary Reeves, director of University Health Services, said the virus was something to be very concerned about.

“It was a new virus that had never been seen on this planet,” Reeves said. “That was a reason to be very concerned because nobody had immunity to it.”

Reeves said the response to the pandemic was warranted because of the unknown impact it would have on people.

“No one knew the virus and what the morbidity rate would be,” she said. “And then seeing that it impacted young people in a negative way, I think most places took an appropriate response.”

The first case of the H1N1 virus in the United States was confirmed in California in April 2009 by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In May, the Ohio Department of Health confirmed five cases in Ohio.

“Like all pandemics, they come in waves,” Reeves said. “We knew it was spreading rapidly and we knew that nobody had ever seen it, nobody had ever had it and no one knew how serious it would be.”

According to the CDC, H1N1, sometimes referred to as swine flu, is a contagious virus that spreads like the typical seasonal flu. It was at first called swine flu because its genetic makeup was similar to flu viruses that circulate among pigs.

Reeves said the beginning of the pandemic was an alarming time.

“It was frightening because of the volume and the number of causes,” Reeves said. “We didn’t know necessarily how to treat it.”

More than 900 students were seen at the DeWeese Health Center last year with flu-like symptoms. About 2,500 seasonal flu vaccines and 1,900 H1N1 vaccines were given on campus.

This years vaccine will be a trivalent influenza vaccine, meaning it will protect against type A, type B, and H1N1.

H1N1 affects young people more than the regular seasonal flu.

“What made it significant to all of us who work in education is that it impacted children and young adults disproportionately,” Reeves said.

In early August of this year, the World Health Organization officially declared that the H1N1 virus was no longer a worldwide pandemic.

Maggie Reinmann, a sophomore speech pathology major, thinks that the response to the virus last year was exaggerated.

“It was overdone,” Reinmann said. “It didn’t really affect my life.”

Still, Reeves cautioned not to underestimate the impact the flu could have.

“We get busy during flu season anyway,” she said. “Because of living in close corridors and the fact that flu season coincides with finals, a time when students are already overly tired and immunosuppressed, flu can certainly impact someone academically.”

Reeves said the best way to prevent catching the flu is getting the vaccine.

Kent campus flu clinics will be held the first week of November.

Contact Adam Zaleski [email protected]