Florida Atlantic University's first student-run news source.


Florida Atlantic University's first student-run news source.


Florida Atlantic University's first student-run news source.


Swine flu at the home of the Owls

Josh Adams and his friend Jason Schenck went to the Rockstar Mayhem music festival in August. The festival was filled with fans screaming for more than a dozen artists performing at the yearly event. After the festival, both Adams and Schenck contracted swine flu, both of them went to the hospital, and one of them died.
“When I took him to the emergency room, they did the swab test and they just said he didn’t have the swine flu,” said Maryellen Schenck, Jason’s mother. “With my son, it was seven days before we found out [that he had swine flu].”

Similarly to Schenck and more than 100 other FAU students, Adams also exhibited symptoms of swine flu. His mother, Sherri Miller, a registered nurse, took him to the emergency room at Martin Memorial Hospital, where she demanded that they treat her son with medication.
“He had a rapidly increasing fever. He also had a degree of mental confusion, and I said, ‘That’s a bad sign.’ Most of what I knew about H1N1 I read online from the [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Web site]; anybody could find it out,” said Miller. “I did have to demand the medicine, and even with the medicine he was very sick.”

Adams received medications that combated the effects of the H1N1 virus, and he was able to go back to work after a few days.
“I’m under the impression that it could have been me, and that if my mom wasn’t a nurse, I might be in the same position [as Schenck],” said Adams.

In addition to contracting swine flu, Adams and Schenck both had asthma, which, according to Student Health Services Director Cathie Wallace, is an underlying medical condition that can exacerbate the effects of the H1N1 virus, often leading to death.

Those in Student Health Services are attempting to avoid situations like Schenck’s by preparing for the worst.
“We planned for this over the past year or so, for a pandemic,” said Wallace. They’ve been using a multifaceted approach that includes putting up handwashing posters in residence halls and restrooms, working with Financial Affairs to purchase hand sanitizer for campus departments, and even starting up a Web site loaded with H1N1 information.

Student Health Services is getting the word out about swine flu, but just like the hospital in Schenck’s case, they’re trying to avoid direct treatment of the illness. Tamiflu, an antiviral medication that treats the flu, isn’t being prescribed to most who exhibit symptoms because, according to Wallace, the CDC is advising doctors not to prescribe the medicine due to the fact that the H1N1 virus will develop a resistance to the treatment. Instead, the hospitals and Student Health Services are doing what the CDC recommends by sending patients home.
“When we see the patients in the [FAU] clinics, we give them flu kits that include surgical masks, an instruction booklet on how to take care of yourself, cough drops, Tylenol and acetaminophen so they can protect others from getting sick,” said Wallace.

In most cases, this method of treatment is the most effective because, unless a patient has an underlying medical condition like asthma or diabetes, they’ll recover from swine flu just like the seasonal flu. In fact, in most cases swine flu is less harmful than the seasonal flu.

Marci Finley, a freshman theater major living on campus, was a patient at the Student Health Services clinic and was forced to don a surgical mask upon entry  to the clinic as a precaution. She saw a physician who determined that she had flu-like symptoms.
“I never had swine flu,” Finley said. “I just had the regular flu.” Nevertheless, Finley was prescribed the same treatment as a patient with swine flu: She was advised to isolate herself until she stopped exhibiting flu-like symptoms.

Finley was encouraged to isolate herself because Student Health Services is wary of the illness spreading, but she ended up staying in her dorm until she got better. However, Student Health Services is offering to relocate ill students to alternate rooms on campus until they’re no longer sick. Students who aren’t sick can also be moved to a temporary room if their roommate is ill and they don’t have another place to stay.
“The basic nature of the illness says to self-isolate, and so if a student is in a double room, in order to try to keep the other student free from illness we would remove the sick person if they’re willing, or the well person in that situation. We’ve only relocated two or three [students], because about half of them are going home,” said Jill Eckardt, director of housing.

The rooms students are being voluntarily relocated to are guest apartments, and there’s one in every residence building. So far, Heritage Park is the only building where those unused rooms have been utilized. Upon self-isolation, a sick student entering one of these guest aparments will have a “flu buddy” who will bring the student food. This way, the sick student doesn’t have to venture outside. If a student who is well enters self-isolation, he or she just goes about business normally.

The clinic is treating all flu cases like H1N1 cases because they share symptoms. Doctors and those at the FAU clinic have the ability to perform a test that will determine if a patient has swine flu, but, according to Finley, by the time the results come back in a week, you’ll already know if you’ve got swine flu just by the state of your health.
“The test is more than 50 percent inaccurate,” said Josh Adams, who, after two days of H1N1 infection, had a laundry list of symptoms, including coughing, sore throat, aches, headache and fever.

To those in health care, the pandemic of swine flu isn’t a new event but a regular occurrence.
“In 1976 we had swine flu in the U.S., and prior to that we had the Hong Kong flu, and in 1918 we had a very large outbreak in the U.S. which is very similar to what we have now,” said Cathie Wallace.

Even though pandemics are normal and swine flu has been around before, “People are concerned because nobody has immunity to the [H1N1] virus and it is causing illness and death in young people, which isn’t usual,” said Wallace.

Often, a flu, such as the seasonal one, is fatal to the elderly, but swine flu has also been fatal to younger people like Jason Schenck.
“What worries me is that there are so many kids at these colleges [who] don’t know what symptoms to look for, [who] don’t know how to act quickly. You’ve got to do something — you’ve got to do something right away — that’s why my son is alive today, because of what we did,” said Sherri Miller.

Adams and Schenck received the H1N1 virus after attending an event with hundreds of other people. The campus environment emulates these conditions of close quarters, which quickens the spreading of a communicable virus.
“This virus will be with us through the fall semester into the spring semester. It’s not going to go away right away. Any efforts we can do to prevent the communication of the virus, we should be trying.Just because the semester ends in December, we shouldn’t let our guards down. If everyone washes their hands and practices good hygiene, we should also see decreases in a lot of other diseases,” Wallace said.


Need some information?

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Web site: www.cdc.gov

Student Health Services’ Web page with info on H1N1: www.fau.edu/shs/h1n1_faqs.php

Boca Housing Office:
Phone: (561) 297-2880
E-mail: [email protected]

Jupiter Housing Office:
Phone: (561) 799-8828
E-mail: [email protected]


If you think your roommate has swine flu:

-Tell the Department of Housing and Residential Life so that they can move him or her to an alternate room on campus until they get better.

-Find another room. You can stay with a friend for a few days until your roommate gets better.

-Monitor your own health to see if you develop flu-like symptoms.

-Clean up areas and objects you and your roommate share, like the bathroom sink and any dishes.


Why everybody’s freaking out:

-According to Cathie Wallace, director of Student Health Services, unlike the seasonal influenza, which is usually only deadly to the elderly, swine flu has been deadly to the young as well.

-It is easily spread over shared spaces, and college students share a lot of spaces.

-It’s new. It’s not a regular occurrence like the seasonal flu, so it’s not a normal thing to deal with. Also, because it’s new, there’s no vaccine yet.

-The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are encouraging doctors to avoid treating their swine flu-stricken patients with Tamiflu, a prescription drug that fights the seasonal flu.


Why you shouldn’t freak out:

-Though the H1N1 virus has been deadly for our generation, as Wallace puts it, “There have maybe been five or six hundred deaths so far, and for the seasonal flu there have been 36,000 deaths.”

-Those who do die from swine flu often have some underlying medical condition, like asthma or diabetes.

-Though it is spread over common spaces, simple hygiene tasks like washing or sanitizing your hands frequently will reduce your likelihood of ingesting the virus.

-No, there isn’t a vaccine available as of right now, but one should be released later in October, and it will cost less than the seasonal flu vaccine, which is only $18.50.

-Tamiflu does fight the flu, but, according to Wallace, it only alleviates the illness a day or two before the patient would recover on their own. And because the H1N1 virus has been shown to develop immunities to Tamiflu, the less people who take it, the less the virus is exposed to it, and the chances of H1N1 developing immunities to the drug are lessened.


In their shoes:

To better understand those who had swine flu, I followed Student Health Services’ recommendations on what to do if you’ve got the flu.

At the clinic, they gave me a brown paper bag filled with surgical masks, cough drops, a paper printout explaining how to take care of someone who has the flu, a thick business card with a pull-out thermometer on the front and a chart indicating the symptoms my illness garnered, and a countless number of packaged pairs of ibuprofen and acetaminophen. From this goodie bag, I took out a surgical mask, put it on and walked down the Breezeway.

On my way downstairs, Cody Pickard, a junior majoring in communication, did not so stealthily double-take toward me wearing the mask.
“You do a double-take because it catches your eye,” he said. “I felt bad because I thought you had the flu, and three of my friends have had it.”

Once I got to the Breezeway, the stares were constant. Rebecca Emory, a sophomore nursing major, was standing at one of the sorority tables.
“[Someone wearing a surgical mask is] a little intimidating and overwhelming. It catches you by surprise,” she said. “If I understood the reason why [someone was wearing a mask], I’d be completely understanding and treat them like any other person.”

Walking further down, I received a stare from Jyni Gaspard, a sophomore majoring in criminal justice. She wasn’t so receptive to a masked journalist.
“If it’s that serious [for you to be wearing a mask], you shouldn’t be where there’s a lot of people.”

Though Student Health Services doesn’t require students to wear surgical masks when they encounter healthy students, it is highly recommended. That must be a difficult task for someone who’s got swine flu, because even though I was perfectly healthy, the judgmental stares made me sick.


H1N1 facts:

-Swine flu did come from pigs, but it isn’t spread by eating pork. In fact, the virus contains genetic components from humans, pigs and birds.

-The virus is spread by ingesting it, most commonly by breathing in the microscopic droplets of a sneeze or cough which contain the virus.

-Microscopic droplets from a sneeze or cough can travel distances of up to six feet, so maintain a safe distance from others.

-Swine flu, in most cases, is actually milder than the seasonal flu.

Leave a Comment
More to Discover

Comments (0)

Do you have something to say? Submit your comments below
All UNIVERSITY PRESS Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *