LAKE CHARLES, LA (KPLC) - Schools and colleges with students in close contact are the perfect breeding grounds for swine flu outbreaks, which are already being seen around the country. We visit McNeese State University to find out what's being done to keep students protected.
Back to school pressures of new classes and new people are at the top of the list of college stressors and this year the threat of swine flu is giving students something else to worry about. MSU Dean of Student Services Toby Osburn says, "So far we've had about 26 students who've either self-reported that they had flu-like symptoms or have self-presented at the Student Health Center with symptoms."
Osburn says college students are especially vulnerable - living, working and playing in such close quarters. That's why university officials at MSU are taking education on this virus outside of the classroom. "The things that we ordinarily do to prepare for a severe weather event, a hurricane, other types of emergencies or disasters are being invoked as we prepare for this particular type of situation," says Osburn.
Across campus, pamphlets like these have been put in each students' hands. In residence halls, there's an even bigger push to practice proper hygiene. MSU Junior Martha Pittman says, "I've read the information and the steps that they suggested - mainly just washing my hands a lot and not drinking after people - just simple things you should do already, but it's more of a concern now since it's more prevalent."
Still, not all students are worried about the potential outbreak. "I guess I'm not as concerned as I should be," says MSU Sophomore Lee Star, "but I'm not really changing anything from what I usually do."
While colleges across the country are reporting outbreaks, the good news is that the cases have been mild. Health and university officials are stressing the importance of isolating yourself if you exhibit flu-like symptoms. "Don't go to class, don't go to work, stay home, get better," says Osburn, "see your doctor if necessary and don't return to campus until you're 24 hours free of symptoms without the use of over-the-counter fever reducers."
Osburn also says if there is a widespread outbreak, classes will go on - but be held online versus in a classroom. University officials are encouraging students to get both the seasonal flu vaccine and the swine flu vaccine when they are made available.