Stop the spread

Suzi Starheim

University will alert campus with details about flu vaccines

The ease with which a virus spreads coupled with the congestion of a college campus puts Kent State at high risk for a swine flu outbreak. The university has been prepping for an outbreak since spring and is advising students to use common sanitary practices.

Kent State is at risk for swine flu.

“The likelihood of an outbreak is very high,” President Lester Lefton said in a meeting with student media leaders. “The question is: How bad is it going to be?”

The university has already begun taking measures to prevent the unnecessary spread of the virus on campus, said Betsy Joseph, director of residence services.


• Clean means to wash hands for about 20 seconds (about how long it takes to sing the ABCs once or Happy Birthday twice) using soap and water.ÿ Use paper towels to turn faucets on and off and to open the bathroom door.

• Cover coughs and sneezes with your elbow or tissue, NOT your hand.ÿ Throw tissues away as soon as possible and wash hands.

• Contain illness by staying home when you are sick.

Sarah Hallsky, health educator at the Portage County Health Department

“Because of what is happening across the country and the world, we began preparing for an outbreak last spring,” Joseph said. “All information from the (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) suggests that we are going to have H1N1 affecting all communities this coming year.”

One measure of prevention is putting hand sanitizers in all residence halls to slow the spread of H1N1, or swine flu as it is more commonly known.

The university is also planning to clean areas with high “hand traffic” more often, Joseph said.

“High ‘hand-touching’ areas are being wiped down more to try and reduce the virus being spread from those areas,” Joseph said. “We do this regularly anyways, but we want to focus on areas with high hand traffic.”

They’re focusing on entryways, elevators and restrooms, she said.

Tom Neumann, associate vice president of university communication and marketing, said the university has communicated to all students, faculty and staff to make sure they are aware of the virus.

“We are preparing for the worst-case scenario, so we want everyone prepared in case we have a large outbreak on campus,” Neumann said.

Neumann said the university’s Pandemic Planning and Preparation Committee meets twice a week. Since last spring, it has poured all its efforts into preventing the H1N1 virus. The committee is looking for vaccine availability, examining sickness levels nationally and on campus and seeing what other campuses are doing about the virus.

“We’re trying to get as much vaccine as possible at the university,” Neumann said.

Neumann said one of the main ways to prevent the spread of H1N1 is through raising awareness and understanding.

“We need to continue to get that awareness out there,” Neumann said. “Hopefully people will learn the preventative techniques.”

“We are really trying to make sure everyone is prepared by knowing what it is and how to prevent exposure by the time it hits our community,” Joseph said. “We anticipate experiencing the flu just like other areas have.”

Sarah Hallsky, public health educator at the Portage County Health Department, said the reason this virus is spreading so quickly and easily is because people haven’t been exposed to it in the past.

“This is a new virus, which means that most people have no natural immunity to it,” Hallsky said.ÿ”It is passed easily from person to person through coughs and sneezes, as well as touching contaminated surfaces and then touching your eyes, nose or mouth.”

With such a high concentration of people living in the same place – in dorms especially – Lefton suggests leaving if becoming ill.

“We’re going to encourage anybody who gets it to go home. Get out of here,” Lefton said. “If you get it, the best thing that happens is you go home where your mother or someone can take care of you. There are 6,600 students living on campus. We can’t cook that much chicken soup.”

Neumann said while there are no definite dates for vaccination clinics on campus yet, messages will be sent out to all faculty, staff and students in September to confirm dates and locations.

“We have to be careful not to give a vaccine too early,” Neumann said. “You want to give it before the seasonal flu comes around, but to also make sure it lasts through the winter months.”

Contact safety reporter Suzi Starheim at [email protected].