Senior Jill Watral returned home from the Duke Youth Programs, where she was a summer counselor, to find her sister wearing swimming goggles and rubber gloves, intent on not catching the H1N1 virus.
For the next seven days, Watral communicated to people mostly from her second-story window, quarantined from the public because she had contracted what doctors believed was the virus more commonly known as swine flu.
“I was so upset that I had to leave the kids, and I was just worried about what was going to happen,” Watral said. “I had a 100-degree fever.”
Campus officials expect that, like Watral, UNC students will contract the H1N1 virus, said Mary Beth Koza, director of environment, health and safety at UNC.
While most cases are mild, it is clear that the virus has already begun spreading. Koza said the University’s goal is to continue operating normally and that the situation is not being taken lightly.
“There is actually a lot of discussion right now about academic issues,” she said. “We’re asking students to self-isolate.”
Watral said the summer program where she worked was doing fine during its first week. But the camp director soon told the counselors that one of the children had to be quarantined because of the H1N1 virus.
The virus began spreading through a dormitory where all of the kids stayed during the camp, living lifestyles much like that of typical college students.
A few days later, Watral said she woke up from a nap, and something felt wrong. She felt achy and off. She had a scratchy throat, high fever and chills.
The camp director sent her to the student health center. Doctors immediately put a mask on her because they were worried she had contracted the virus.
After Watral described her symptoms to doctors, they diagnosed her with the virus and told her she did not need to be tested because so many children at her camp had contracted H1N1.
“He said I had to be quarantined for at least a week,” she said. The doctors told her the symptoms would be gone within five days but she would have to stay out of contact for another two days to be safe.
After she left camp for home, she said the symptoms got worse, but doctors prescribed Tamiflu to treat the virus. Her temperature exceeded 102 degrees.
“That’s when I started feeling really bad,” she said, adding that she was glad her stomach was all right because she has a fear of vomiting. “My eyes were really hot. I had to put a cold compress on my head.”
By the fourth day, Watral said her fever had subsided and she felt the worst was over. But she was still required to stay in her room. No one was allowed to touch her. Her mother couldn’t give her a hug.
Reflecting on her illness, Watral said the H1N1 virus was no worse than the regular flu, which she has had before.
“It’s not life or death. It’s just a few days of your life that’s going to suck,” she said. “I know a lot of people are very high-strung about classes and good grades, but if they miss a few days, it’s going to be OK.”
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