Swine flu hits residence

Virus reaching its peak in coming weeks, Queen’s doctor says

A person receives an H1N1 flu shot at Kingston’s vaccination clinic at Frontenac Mall yesterday afternoon.
A person receives an H1N1 flu shot at Kingston’s vaccination clinic at Frontenac Mall yesterday afternoon.

About 20 students have been diagnosed with H1N1 flu virus as of last Sunday, Housing and Hospitality Services Director Bruce Griffiths said.

Griffiths said housing and hospitality services is monitoring cases and has implemented additional precautions to clean doorknobs and surfaces in residences this week. Anti-septic wipes and hand sanitizers are readily available in residences, he said.

If a student is sick, a friend or a don can bring him or her food.

Sick students aren’t put in isolation or quarantined, Griffiths said.

“Not unless they’re high-risk,” he said, adding that it’s unnecessary to move students who have swine flu because by the time they’re diagnosed, it’s likely they’ve already been in contact with roommates or floormates and exposed them to the virus.

Students in residence won’t be informed of cases of H1N1 on their floor because of privacy issues, he said.

“The rationale is that the precautions don’t change because there’s an ill student on the floor; the precautions remain the same and we don’t want students waiting for verification of illness in their area to begin good practices,” Griffiths said.

Sending people home isn’t a viable option, he said.

“They have a right to be here.”

Main Campus Residence Council (MCRC) President Robyn Courtney, who lives in Leonard Hall, said she doesn’t think many students have noticed a significant effect of the H1N1 virus on student life.

“There’s no panic,” she said. “Students are being cautious and making use of hand sanitizers and when people are coughing, they’re coughing into their elbow.” Dr. Suzanne Billing, Health, Counselling and Disability Services medical director, told the Journal via e-mail that swine flu is no more harmful than other strains of influenza, but it affects young people more frequently.

Billing said the University doesn’t keep official statistics on how many students have contracted H1N1.

“Swabbing to confirm the diagnoses isn’t indicated in most circumstances and medical management of H1N1 is based on what we call ‘clinical judgement’ to make the diagnoses.”

She said public health officials keep a count of diagnoses by city.

Kingston doesn’t split the cases into student and non-student cases, she wrote.

“Many students have been affected, Public Health is tracking the numbers for the community as a whole, not just Queen’s.”

Billing said she thinks the virus is reaching its peak in the coming weeks.

The H1N1 vaccine is available to students with diagnosed chronic illnesses, she said.

“We will be receiving more and will then begin distributing vaccine for any students who wish to receive it,” she said, adding that the University hasn’t confirmed when it will receive the vaccine for everyone else.

George Hendrie, ArtSci ’13, said he thinks students should be told about H1N1 cases on their floors.

Two students on his floor were diagnosed with the virus and his don told the floor at a meeting, he said.

Hendrie said his opinion of H1N1 changed after knowing people who have come down with it and recovered.

“An article I read said it was one of the least lethal seasonal flus,” he said. “It was made out not to be the case a few months ago.”

—With files from Gloria Er-Chua, Katelyn Ritchie and Holly Tousignant

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