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Flu cases steady in fifth week

Five weeks into the school year, the estimated number of H1N1 virus cases on campus is 350, said Michael Schoenfeld, vice president for public affairs and government relations.

But this estimate may not accurately reflect the actual number of cases, said Dr. Bill Purdy, executive director of Student Health. The number of confirmed cases remains at 50, as reported by The Chronicle two weeks ago.

Schoenfeld said the University’s approach to preventing and treating the pandemic has not changed significantly since the start of the year.

“We are continuing to take the steps of education, treatment and prevention by having hand sanitizers available [and the] meal delivery service for students who might be confined to their rooms,” he said.

Sue Wasiolek, dean of students and assistant vice president for student affairs, also said she was not aware of any real change in policy or procedure.

Purdy said the University has been abiding by standard health guidelines, as it has in months past.

“We’re really just following the recommendations of all the disease experts [and the Centers for Disease Control],” he said.

At the beginning of the year, diagnostic tests were used to identify the H1N1 virus in suspected cases, Purdy said. But these tests are labor intensive, and when testing was being done, about 40 percent of people who visited Student Health reporting flu-like symptoms ended up testing negative for the virus.

In the past few weeks, students who have developed symptoms of the swine flu–specifically a fever, runny nose, congestion, headache or fatigue–have called Student Health and have been diagnosed over the phone, he noted. Students said they were advised to drink plenty of fluids, take Tylenol or Advil and stay in their rooms until 24 hours after the fever broke.

“I felt like it was hard for [Student Health] to be helpful because it was something they couldn’t actively treat,” said freshman Heather White, who contracted the swine flu in mid-September.

Although Student Health has available stores of Tamiflu, the drug that has been used to treat the H1N1 virus, they are being reserved for high-risk patients, Purdy said.

“We don’t feel that it’s really needed. The flu [at Duke] has been mild,” he added. “If you start giving a lot out, there’s a higher chance that the virus will develop resistance to it.”

Next month, the recently developed swine flu vaccine will be made available by the Durham County Health Department, Purdy said. Free seasonal flu vaccinations will also be offered at the Bryan Center Oct. 7.

In addition, the University recently launched the Care Meal Program, which allows sick students to order meals and have them delivered to their rooms.

Some students, however, have not responded enthusiastically to the new program.

“I actually think Merchants on Points was more helpful because I could order it when I wanted to,” White said, noting that the meal program requires that students order by certain times.

Sophomore Nafeesa Jafferjee, who had the H1N1 virus last week, said she filled out an online order form, but her food was never delivered.

James Tomberg, a lecturer in mathematics, said the virus has not seriously affected attendance in his classes.

“I don’t think this semester is particularly worse than others,” he said.

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