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The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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The BattalionMay 4, 2024

A&M officials on H1N1: no foreseen closures

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated guidance does not suggest school closure for confirmed or suspected cases of the H1N1 virus, but Texas A&M travel restrictions to Mexico remain and graduation ceremonies might be altered.
“At this point, we don’t foresee any significant changes to the schedule of final exams or classes. Administration will make a decision on Monday, in ample time to announce any changes to graduation ceremonies,” said Chris Meyer, emergency preparedness assistant vice president for the Office of Safety and Security.
“We do not anticipate any [closures to] the remaining semester schedule. The CDC does not recommend any changes to events.”
Previously identified as the Swine Flu, cases of the H1N1 virus in the U.S. have not been severe and are comparable in severity to seasonal influenza, according to interim CDC guidance for schools and childcare facilities, updated Monday.
According to a news release, A&M researchers and Dr. John Quarles, head of the Department of Microbial and Molecular Pathogenesis at the Health Scien are working on a vaccine for influenza as well as trying to understand how the virus mutates.
After College Station ISD closed Pebble Creek Elementary Tuesday because of a suspected case of the H1N1 virus, the CDC updated interim guidance to discourage school closures unless there is a magnitude of faculty or student absenteeism that interferes with the school’s ability to function.Pebble Creek opened Wednesday, earlier than scheduled, as a result of the guidance changes.
“The only way we’ll close the schools now is if schools could not function due to the flu,” said CSISD superintendent Eddie Coulson. “[H1N1 virus] is still out there, but it’s been determined not to be a serious health threat; it has mild symptoms.”
CSISD lifted travel restrictions limiting field trips and other events to Brazos County.
“Everything is back to normal. UIL has changed their stance, too. As a result, there will be baseball and softball games this week,” Coulson said. “I would encourage everyone to take all the normal precautions to prevent illness, but I don’t think there’s a need to restrict travel based on the latest and greatest information we’ve received.”
In light of the updated CDC interim guidance, residents should be cautious when considering international travel, said A&M Flu Expert Janie Harris, a Texas AgriLife Extension Service family and consumer sciences specialist.
“Where there are many confirmed cases, there’s a risk of bringing it back to our area,” Harris said. “When traveling within the U.S., people should practice good hygiene and social distancing.”
As the CDC continues to learn more about the H1N1 virus, restrictions in reaction to the pandemic may change, Meyer said.
“There is still a restriction against the summer programs in Mexico. That may be reevaluated at anytime as the situation changes,” Meyer said.
On April 29, Texas Gov.Rick Perry issued a disaster declaration in response to the pandemic.
“The Strategic National Stock Pile has provided antiviral drugs and other things if the state needs them, as a result of the disaster declaration,” said Brazos County Emergency Preparedness and Response Coordinator Mike Paulus. “[The declaration] just makes it easier to take protective actions.”
Paulus said that although the two deaths in the nation due to the H1N1 virus have been in Texas, there are other factors to be considered in the deaths.
“The term ‘pandemic’ refers to the reach of the disease, not how severe the disease is. H1N1 has spread to several continents.” she said. “That is the basis for the use of the term.”
Paulus said that the cause for concern over the H1N1 virus is that there is no vaccine, and if enough Americans contract the virus it could cause a tremendous amount of societal disruption.
“There is no vaccine for the new H1N1 virus. It will not be in next year’s flu shot; it has already been formulated,” Paulus said. “We do have several medications that interfere with the viruses ability to replicate (Tamiflu and Relenza). They can help lessen the effects of the virus.”
Paulus said that the H1N1 does not look like it has any more severity than the usual flu.
“The difference is that seasonal flu attacks 10 [percent] to 15 percent of the population over a given year. Most folks have some level of immunity to seasonal flu, especially if they have had flu shots in the past. We have no apparent immunity to H1N1,” Paulus said. “We worry that a new strain of flu will burn through the population in a very short period of time. This could cause a 30 [percent] to 50 percent decrease in the work force. The rush on the health care system could cause it to temporarily fail.”
Immunity to the H1N1 virus can only be developed by exposure to the virus environmentally or through vaccination.
“This is a long-term problem. We will probably see H1N1 sporadically through the summer. In the fall, when conditions are better for propagation, we may see it affect more folks,” Paulus said.
The H1N1 virus will evolve and its symptoms could worsen, Paulus said, but it is not a virus unlike many others.
“Viruses change. It could make it easily transmissible or not transmissible at all. Those are the two extremes. The reality is it will probably be somewhere in the middle. This happens with the flu every year; we have to be concerned with every viral disease out there,” Paulus said. “We monitor every viral disease, see how they’re changing and develop defenses as to what we see. You can’t be worried about it all the time. There’s always going to be a virus out there that can do us harm, it’s just how fast we pick it up and building a defense to it.”
The Brazos County Health Department asked residents to bring in specimens from individuals with flu-like illnesses.
“It is important to track the spread of the disease to learn as much as we can about it, how it behaves,” Paulus said.
Keep upFor instructions on contributing specimens visit razoshealth.org.
For further information on he H1N1virus and preventative measures visit cdc.gov

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