By Catherine Wang
Adedoyin Oyekanâs â10 experience studying at Oxford University this summer was very different from what she expected. Oyekan became one of the 300,000 people around the world to get swine flu.
Influenza A virus subtype H1N1, commonly known as swine flu, has already caused 3,000 deaths after first being detected in Mexico in April.
Swine flu is a highly contagious virus with genes similar to the flu viruses found in pigs. It is transmitted through human contact and bodily fluids.
Symptoms, which can last up to a week, are similar to that of the seasonal flu: fever, sneezing, sore throat, diarrhea, coughing, headache, shortness of breath, and muscle or joint pain.
The Centers for Disease Control says that the swine flu is relatively mild in healthy people, with cases resulting in death generally only occurring to those with asthma, diabetes, obesity, heart disease, or a weak immune system.
Children, teens, pregnant women and health workers are also vulnerable.
Keeping Schools Safe
The CDC recommends that those with flu-like symptoms stay home for seven days or 24 hours after symptoms subside and no medication is being taken, whichever is longer. Only if the outbreak becomes threatening to the welfare of the community should schools consider closing.
Head of School Jeanne Huybrechts said that the school will follow the Department of Education and CDC guidelines. The school has been vigilant about monitoring the status of the outbreak and will be cautious in the coming year, she said. The school will communicate to parents any updates regarding swine flu first via email and then by every possible means of communication, Huybrechts said. Hand sanitizers will be installed around campus, especially in the cafeteria, and the school will display posters about good hygiene.
Teachers and deans will be more proactive about making sure students cover their noses and mouths when sneezing or coughing.
In addition, the school has a close connection with two epidemiologists, who are “one phone call away,” Huybrechts said.
Forty-five million shots of the new swine flu vaccine will be available before the end of October. The vaccine will likely be given in two shots, three weeks apart and will take about two weeks to reach full effectiveness.
Huybrechts said the school will “wait and see” as to whether they give out the vaccine to students when it becomes available.
How to protect yourself
To prevent the spread of germs, people should wash their hands frequently, according to the CDC. Sneezes and coughs should be covered and people should avoid touching their eyes, noses and mouths.
Although most experts suggest that a child see a doctor if he or she becomes sick, going to the emergency room should be a last resort.
Those that have swine flu are recommended to avoid crowds to avoid spreading it.
The CDC does not recommend “swine flu parties,” gatherings where healthy people purposely come into close contact with a person who has the virus in order to get the sickness as a way to develop natural immunity.
Experiencing a worldwide pandemic
Oyekan caught a cold as soon as she arrived in Oxford.
“I felt weak and tired,” Oyekan said. “I could not determine if I was hot or cold and I kept getting goose bumps.”
Fearful that she was getting swine flu, since roughly 20 other students had it, Oyekan tried using pain relievers, throat lozenges and over-the-counter cold medicine, none of which seemed to help.
She began to miss classes because she could not focus.
Oyekan wanted to take Tamiflu, a prescription flu medicine, but the program office refused to give it to her since she did not have a fever.
Finally, she paid 30 Euros to visit a doctor, who confirmed that she had the swine flu. After taking Tamiflu, Oyekan experienced temporary relief, but soon started having coughing fits.
“It was the horrible cough reserved for commercials and movies, but this was happening to me in real life,” Oyekan said. “Whenever I coughed it felt like my chest was about to be shattered with a sledgehammer and my brain was being crushed.”
Over one weekend, Oyekanâs aunt was supposed to take her to London. As they were leaving, Oyekan felt as if her body “was on fire.” She went to the program office to have her temperature measured, and found out it was 101.66 degrees Fahrenheit. Oyekanâs aunt decided to take her to London anyway.
She started vomiting, so she was rushed to the emergency room, where she continued to throw up.
There, she was diagnosed with swine flu and given a stronger dose of Tamiflu. She took it for seven days and took pain reliever for two weeks.
“I got better after that and that was the end of swine flu for me, hopefully,” Oyekan said.