The Daily Tar Heel

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Saturday December 4th

Students still urged to get H1N1 vaccines

Another wave could begin at UNC

Health officials are still urging students to get vaccinated for H1N1, even though the number of cases has significantly declined since fall’s peak.

Although it hasn’t yet materialized, another wave of the flu could happen, and there is currently a surplus of vaccines, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

About 119 million vaccines had been shipped nationwide as of Jan. 29, but only 61 million people — about 20 percent of the population — are vaccinated, stated Kristen Nordlund, division of media relations for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in an e-mail.

After staying low for awhile, the number of H1N1 cases is slowly climbing again, said Dr. Zack Moore, an epidemiologist with the N.C. Division of Public Health.

“We’re starting to see an upswing on college campuses in the last week or two,” Moore said.

“(The first wave) was a very big wave, and it definitely affected students and young people more than the seasonal flu,” Moore said.

It’s possible that the numbers could climb as high as they were last fall, but there is no way to predict that now, he said.

“As long as this virus is circulating, which we know it is, it has the potential to cause illness. We have no way of predicting if or when another wave or increase in illness will occur,” Nordlund said.

“CDC continues to intensely monitor both H1N1 and seasonal flu activity and encourage those who have not been vaccinated to seek vaccine.”

Because college students, who live in close quarters with many other people, are highly susceptible to H1N1, vaccination is highly recommended to prevent another wave, Moore said.

UNC does not have numbers for how many people have contracted H1N1 this academic year because not everyone who contracted the flu reported it, said Mary Covington, executive director of UNC Campus Health Services.

Health officials also struggled to come up with a number because they did not often administer the tests to determine whether the flu a person contracted was the H1N1 strain.

“We really have no way of knowing exactly how many people were affected by the virus. … Many people did get the virus, but the number of cases reported were only the tip of the iceberg,” Covington said.

There is no particular plan for what to do if another large wave of H1N1 occurs, other than to push prevention methods, particularly vaccination, she said.

 

Contact the State & National Editor at stntdesk@unc.edu.

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