Emory Report
November 16, 2009
Volume 62, Number 11

Emory continues to
be at the forefront of novel H1N1 research, responding rapidly to the pandemic as it unfolds. Read more at www.emory.edu/flu.

Emory Report homepage  

November 16, 2009
H1N1 back? Keep hygiene habits at hand

By Margie Fishman

Washing hands after using the restroom is a force of habit. But is it standard operating procedure after touching a door handle, typing on a library computer or retrieving money from an ATM?

As the nation gears up for what could be another round of H1N1 influenza, Emory health officials are reminding students, faculty and staff that taking simple precautions, such as regularly washing hands with soap and water, covering coughs and sneezes with a tissue and then disposing, and avoiding contact with those who are sick, can go a long way in helping to prevent the spread of illness.

“Until a greater proportion of our community can be vaccinated, taking hand hygiene etiquette seriously can reduce the spread of the virus,” says Mike Huey, executive director of Student Health Services.

First appearing in April, H1N1 is a new flu strain that has been declared both a global pandemic and a national emergency.

As of early November, Emory University and Emory Healthcare clinics have distributed more than 3,100 vaccine doses for H1N1 influenza, also known as the swine flu, and another 13,100 doses for common seasonal influenza, which is already on par with the number of seasonal flu vaccines administered last year.
Emory received very limited quantities of novel H1N1 vaccine in mid-October, prompting the University to follow the CDC’s guidance and distribute the vaccine to the highest priority groups. These include pregnant women; caretakers of children under 6 months of age; frontline health care workers; and individuals ages 18 to 64 with severe cardiac, pulmonary or neurodegenerative disease.

Emory was fortunate to receive the H1N1 vaccine last month, says Huey, as some communities are still waiting on their first delivery. As many as 200 individuals have lined up at a single Emory vaccination clinic, he adds.

“If you are in a group that is eligible to receive the vaccine right now, you shouldn’t wait to get it,” says Alexander Isakov, executive director of Emory’s Office of Critical Event Preparedness and Response (CEPAR). “The likelihood is that the clinics will run out before more vaccine becomes available.”

As future H1N1 vaccine shipments are released by the state (no formal timetable has been set), the program will be expanded to other priority groups in the Emory community, Isakov adds. For updates on campus advisories and vaccine clinic locations, visit www.emory.edu/flu.

Meanwhile, “sanitation stations,” including hand sanitizer dispensers and wipes, are popping up around campus as a reminder to practice good hygiene during flu season. The dispensers have received a positive response at Student Health, says Huey, noting that they are refilled regularly.

While the threat of H1N1 influenza appears to have leveled off in the Southeast, health officials say it is difficult to predict when the next wave will occur or if it will overlap with the seasonal flu. Turman South, which now houses an occasional guest after hosting a peak of 51 students at one time at the beginning of the semester, still remains open as a self-isolation facility.

“Nobody can say when the next wave of H1N1 activity will come through our community, but we expect it will happen,” says Isakov. “Just because we’ve seen the numbers taper off should not make us complacent.”