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Swine Flu: Are You Still at Risk?

By Elana Glowatz

It was only a few months ago when the last wave of the pandemic H1N1 influenza virus swept across the globe, infecting many and frightening even more.

One season later, the “swine flu” has disappeared from newspapers and evening news programs. Are we in the clear, or have we just reached the eye of the storm?

According to Dr. Susan V. Donelan, the medical director of the health care epidemiology department at the Stony Brook University Medical Center, we are currently experiencing a “lull of activity.”

“It remains to be seen as to whether we will experience a third wave later in the winter or early spring,” Donelan said.

For now, it appears that students are not too concerned.

“I didn’t think we were that much at risk anyway,” said Crystal Mendez, a sophomore health science major at Stony Brook. “People were just bugging out for no reason.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) disagree. The department’s Web site warns that flu season is not over and there is still flu activity in many states.

“Seasonal flu typically peaks in February and March and influenza activity can occur as late as May,” the CDC’s question and answer section says. “So, increased activity from either seasonal flu, 2009 H1N1 or both are still possible this season.”

While some Stony Brook students, like Mendez, are not too worried about contracting H1N1, some do find themselves fearing they have the virus when they feel ill.

Senior Sean Heaney, a mechanical engineering major, said that every time he feels sick, he has a fleeting thought that his fever could mean that he has the flu. But, he quickly dismisses the idea since the illness would pass. He said that, in general, he is not concerned about the risk of H1N1 because he thinks it’s “fake” and “not a real epidemic sickness.”

Donelan noted that the reach of the virus is relatively mild and expressed hope that the community would not see any more H1N1 activity. She said that if infection rates remain low, it is due to the hard work of officials in “informing the public of the benefits of vaccination, precautions to take if ill and the everyday utility of common-sense maneuvers such as covering a cough, washing hands, staying away from others while ill, etc.”

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