These updates appear weekly in the Whitman staff and faculty newsletter, The Fountain.
December 9: Update
Posted 12-9-09 -- The level of H1N1 flu activity on campus is very low. Should the number of cases increase or if there is critical news and information, this site will once again provide updates as the situation warrants.
Whitman’s Pandemic Web site provides information and resources specific to the campus and in general. Please feel free to bookmark the site www.whitman.edu/content/emergency/pandemic/swineflu and check back for updates.
December 7: Flu update
According to the Nov. 30 issue of Inside Higher Ed: “The latest data from the American College Health Association suggest some good news on the spread of H1N1. Of campuses being tracked by the association, 90 percent reported new cases of H1N1 or similar illnesses. That is down from 95 percent the week before. All but seven states reported significant declines in disease activity from Nov. 14 through Nov. 20.” More information about the association's tracking of H1N1 may be found here.
On campus, there was only one new case of ILI reported at the Welty Health Center.
November 23: Flu update
There were only five new ILI cases reported at the Welty Health Center last week. As reported in the media, there is still no news about wide availability of the vaccine in our area.
November 16: Number of ILI cases declined last week
There were 14 new ILI (influenza-like illness) cases last week – as opposed to 27 new cases last week – for a total of 152.
Patient care and attention to needs extends beyond the Welty Health Center. Director Claudia Ness has called upon the SHAC sponsored "flu squad" to help with call-back follow-ups and vaccine-related paper work. “They are doing a great job and helping with vital tasks,” she reports.
A total of 190 students have been vaccinated. Whitman’s supply is depleted, and while it is anticipated that the college will receive more, it is not known when the next shipment will arrive.
November 9, 2009: Flu Update
There were 27 new ILI (influenza-like illness) cases reporting to the Welty Health Center last week, bringing the fall semester total to 135 as of Friday, Nov. 6
Given the spikes in ILI cases, many parents have been calling campus about with a variety of flu questions. A new document, – Questions Asked by Parents – has been posted on the Web site and can be a resource for all campus community members.
Last Wednesday, the Welty Health Center received a small supply of H1N1 vaccine. The doses targeted high-risk students as outlined by the CDC. The general Whitman student population will be offered the vaccine as greater supplies become available. Staff and faculty who wish to receive the vaccine must secure it from external health providers.
November 2, 2009: Marked increase in ILI cases on campus last week; vigilance remains critical
The Welty Health Center reports a dramatic upsurge in the number of ILI (influenza-like illness) cases on campus last week. There were 68 new cases reporting through the center, compared to a total of 35 fromthe start of school through Oct. 23. The new total since the semester began is 107 including 13 new cases today, Monday, Nov. 2.
Continued vigilance and adherence to guidelines that can help prevent or limit the spread of flu viruses remains imperative. All campus community members are encouraged to:
- Bury coughs and sneezes in your sleeve.
- Wash your hands and use hand sanitizer frequently.
- Self-isolate if you have flu symptoms.
About the vaccine…
While getting vaccinated is among the top recommendations for preventing and spreading the flu, there is still no word on when the college can expect delivery of a supply nor how much we will get. And when itdoes arrive, Whitman’s supply will be used for students only. Staff and faculty will need to receive the vaccination from external providers.
In its Oct. 29 edition, Inside Higher Ed reports: “Colleges have seen a surge in the rates at which students are being diagnosed with H1N1 or similar flu illnesses, according to new data from the American College Health Association. The association has been using a national sample of 270 colleges and universities to track the spread of H1N1, and, in the last week, the rate of cases increased by 34 percent. In addition, several regions where H1N1 had appeared to be in decline – the Northeast, Southeast, Mid-Atlantic and the Midwest – saw increases. Of the colleges in the survey, 97 percent reported new cases. Details on the latest data are available here.”
For another media summary of the national scene, read a recent Chronicle of Higher Education article here.
Oct. 26, 2009 Flu update
There were 14 new ILI (influenza-like illness) cases reporting to the Welty Health Center last week (Oct. 18-23), bringing to 35 the total since the beginning of the semester. Most students are back in class within three days. There have not been any hospitalizations.
The vaccine, once thought to have been available this week, has not yet been distributed.
Of the approximately 47,000 cases of ILI reported to the American College Health Association (ACHA) “there have been only 78 hospitalizations and no deaths, indicating this disease remains generally mild,” quoting a report on its Web site. “However, there continues to be risk of exposure to vulnerable individuals in our campus communities. Statewide outbreaks continue to be active in the West and Northwest regions.”
Because the attack rate in the college population continues to rise, it is critical that we continue to be vigilant about preventing the spread of the virus, reports Tracee Anderson, chair of the pandemic team.
Oct. 19, 2009
Flu update: six-week cycle, vaccine and your “flu I.Q.”
The six-week cycle of flu-like illness leads the current news from the American College Health Association: "Waves of ILI appear to occur in local and regional areas over a six to seven week time interval. Many outbreaks will have waned significantly by the time H1N1 vaccine becomes widely available. Therefore, the next two to three months represent a critical period for achieving high rates of vaccination among college students before the next wave starts this winter," according to Dr. James C. Turner, president of the American College Health Association and executive director of the department of student health at the University of Virginia.
Vaccine update -- The Walla Wall Health Department reports that the H1N1 vaccine will not be available until December.
What’s your “Flu IQ? You can test yourself by taking the Flu IQ Quiz.
Oct. 12, 2009
On the flu front: facts and updates
- The Welty Health Center has exhausted its supply of seasonal flu shots.
- To date, 15 students have been treated at Welty Health Center for flu-like illnesses since the beginning of the school year, and no more than five have been out of class for multiple days at any one time. Only students who actually visit the center are included in this count, so exact figures of flu illness are not known. Still, this is a very manageable rate of contagion, says the health center staff.
- According to the American College Health Association (ACHA), the nationwide attack rate last week was 18.9 cases/10,000 students, which is 6 percent lower than the prior week’s rate.
- The County Department of Health expects a six-week cycle of illness, meaning that new outbreaks are expected every six weeks.
- Health care providers are among the top priority recipients of the first batches of the H1N1 vaccine.
- When Whitman receives its supply of the H1N1 vaccine, it will be reserved for high-risk students – those with potentially severe respiratory complications. Faculty and staff who wish to receive the H1N1 vaccine for themselves and their family members will need to contact their health care provider.
- Whitman will continue to communicate and promote the steps that can be effective in limiting the spread of the virus, including frequent hand-washing and use of hand sanitizer, coughing/sneezing into sleeve and self-isolation if you have symptoms.
- Visit Whitman’s flu Web site for information, resources and links.
Oct. 5, 2009
Flu update – Walla Walla County to dispense H1N1 vaccine via tiered plan
Claudia Ness, interim director of the health center, reports that according to Harvey Crowder, director of the Walla Walla County Health Department, the date which the area will receive the H1N1 vaccine remains an estimate – by mid-October.
But it is known for sure that the first shipment of immunizations, which will be in the form of nasal inhalant, will be dispensed to the hospitals and major clinics. The Welty Health Center is not among the top tier recipients. Subsequent shipments will be disbursed to the K-12 schools and larger day care facilities.
Assuming Walla Walla receives a sufficient quantity, H1N1 vaccine injections will be available at the community flu shot round up, Oct. 20-22 at the Fairgrounds. And Dr. Crowder believes that the county will be able to distribute doses to the colleges in increments of about 100 in late October and throughout November as more shipments arrive.
Regardless of the vaccine, Ness urges all campus community members to “Keep up the hand-washing and self-isolate if you have flu symptoms.”
If you want to know more:
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) flu Web site is a good resource for information about the H1N1 vaccine.
Click here for more information about Whitman’s response to the H1N1 virus.
Sept. 28, 2009
Better flu news for Washington, but diligence remains in order
According to a report last week from The American College Health Association, “The highest rates of activity remain in the state of Washington, though rates are now clearly decreasing.”
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“While the decrease in state rates is certainly good news,” says Tracee Anderson, chair of Whitman’s Pandemic Team, “it doesn’t mean that we should relax our efforts to help limit the spread of disease. Whitman is just experiencing its first cases of flu-like symptoms. We’re still hoping that Whitman does not experience widespread illness, and we still need to be diligent and mindful, particularly with regard to self-isolation.”
Curious about the outbreaks at other campuses? The ACHA article includes those data: Weekly College Case Data [ICD-CM Diagnosis 487.1]
ALSO – while recent reports in the media question the effectiveness of hand-washing to help stem the spread of the H1N1 virus, it remains a viable tool for limiting the spread of any number of illnesses and is just good practice for a close-knit community like a college campus. Self-isolation – staying home from school or work if you have flu-like symptoms – is critical, as is covering coughs and sneezes with your arm.
Proactive steps the college is taking to help prevent the spread of illnesses include:
- Distributing hand-sanitizer around campus
- Increasing the disinfection of commonly touched surfaces in residence halls, the fitness center, computer labs and dining halls.
Sept. 14, 2009
Survey valuable to understanding perceptions of pandemic flu situation
Whitman’s Pandemic Response Team is asking staff, faculty and students to participate in a brief, anonymous attitudinal/perceptions survey designed to help the team deliver effective messaging about swine flu precautions.
Click here to access the 10-question survey. Please submit by Thursday, Sept. 17. If you have questions about the survey, please contact Ruth Wardwell, director of communications, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Pictured: A little humor can help deliver the oft-repeated key message about hand-washing.
Sept. 21, 2009
Delicate balance – providing information without generating panic
Finding the balance between providing useful information and causing fear has been a tightrope walk for Whitman’s Pandemic Response Team as well as health services and communications officers at organizations and educational institutions around the world.
When the news about the H1N1 virus first broke, then called only swine flu, it became a perfect storm for generating fear: inaccurate initial case fatality rate data from Mexico (where the outbreak originated), urgent responses/recommendations from WHO and CDC based on that information, the media stampede to be the first to report whatever came out, and highly sensationalized reporting. That has led to perceptions of over-reaction and a relative “boy who cried wolf” impact, leaving some to think this is no big deal compared to the usual seasonal flu outbreaks.
While the H1N1 virus can result in a flu illness that typically does not make people as sick as seasonal flu, it spreads more quickly and has the capacity to make greater numbers of people ill at the same time. That, says Tracee Anderson, chair of Whitman’s pandemic team, is the fundamental concern.
“The plan is designed to minimize the possibility of having several hundred members of the campus community ill at once. There is no way of predicting how many, if any, of us will catch the virus and become ill. However, we can say with certainty that if there is widespread illness on campus, or in Walla Walla for that matter, it will create hardships and challenges for many of us. With that in mind, the pandemic team is continuing to pursue its charge, and I’m happy to answer your questions and address your concerns.”
Quoting a report from Inside Higher Ed:
“Eighty-three percent of campuses in a sample being used to track the spread of H1N1 reported new cases of flu-like illnesses in the last week, according to the American College Health Association. The association is tracking 253 colleges and universities, and the percentage reporting new cases was up from 72 percent the prior week. At the colleges in the sample, 6,432 new cases were reported, 16 of them requiring hospitalization.”
Vaccination update – Seasonal flu vaccination is underway, and the health center is awaiting word from the Walla Walla Health Department about the H1N1 vaccination. Watch campus e-mail and The Fountain for future updates.