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Swine Flu's Impact on Education

Nov 9, 2009 Jennifer Williamson, Distance Columnist | 0 Comments

It usually starts with a high fever—maybe around 100°F. You might also have a runny nose, a cough, headache, muscle fatigue or soreness, and nausea. Sounds like a fairly normal case of the flu—but it could be more than that.

Swine flu (or the H1N1 virus) was originally given that name because it mutated to human populations from pigs. There have been swine flu virus epidemics in the past, and the 2009 version of the virus contains DNA from bird, pig and human viruses. Its symptoms often present as a particularly nasty flu.

Swine flu spreads the same way ordinary flu viruses spread—through sneezing, coughing, or touching an infected person or surface. Because of this, you’re much more likely to catch swine flu in a public place—like a school.  

Schools Shut Down to Prevent Risk of Swine Flu. Are They Overreacting?

In the past few months, numerous schools across the US have shut down temporarily because of swine flu cases.

woman with H1N1 medical mask

Swine flu spreads the same way ordinary flu viruses spread—through sneezing, coughing, or touching an infected person or surface.

In Laurel, Maryland, a local high school was closed due to five cases of swine flu reported in the student population. The principal, Stephen Edmonds, claimed he made the decision to close the school to proactively prevent the spread of the virus.

In Orlando, over 70 students stayed home from a special-needs school to avoid swine flu infection; twenty-two of the students were reported to have flu-like symptoms that may have indicated swine flu.

But is closing a school because of a few outbreaks—or encouraging large numbers of students to stay home—overreaction? Some would say so, because swine flu is generally not fatal in most people. The symptoms typically resemble a regular flu, and often don’t last longer than a week.

However, the symptoms can be more severe in some cases—some people stay sick for three weeks or longer—and the illness can have serious side effects, especially for children. According to the New York Times, four children were hospitalized in Texas for seizures after contracting the H1N1 virus. This isn’t unusual for even ordinary flu viruses, however; children are much more susceptible to seizures due to flu viruses than adults are, and the virus usually spreads more easily among children than adults.

Instead of closing, some schools are taking precautions such as cleaning and disinfecting high-traffic areas such as cafeterias and hallways. 

Swine Flu Could Be a Problem With College Students

If you’re in college, you may be slightly less susceptible than elementary-school students to the more severe side effects of swine flu. But that doesn’t mean it couldn’t seriously mess with your grades if you contracted the disease.  Swine flu may last as little as a week, or it could last three weeks or more—depending on the severity of your infection and whether or not you have any other illnesses that could weaken your immune system. 
So much time spent out of school can put you behind in your classes and might affect your grade later. 

At Stanford, where an undisclosed number of students have reported H1N1 infection, the school encourages students to self-isolate while they’re sick. Infected students are encouraged to stay in their rooms and away from classes and events until they’re well. Students with roommates are encouraged to wear facemasks and stay at least six feet away from their roommates.

Traditional colleges may be hotbeds of swine flu infection, but online colleges tend to have fewer problems with the spread of disease in general—including the spread of swine flu. In most situations, you can be an online student without leaving your house—so you’re not likely to contract a disease from someone in your class or from your friend sneezing into your soup at the school cafeteria. As an online student, you’re effectively isolated from other students—and you can easily work from home without risking contracting the disease.

Swine flu has disrupted the schedules and attendance of some schools, but others have been taking this latest epidemic in stride. As a college student, if you suspect you have swine flu, make sure your professors know—and keep yourself away from others for as long as you can to prevent disease.

Swine Flu Symptoms and Prevention -


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