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Classes resume with higher risk of H1N1 virus

Seven people in Fresno County have died of the respiratory flu virus H1N1, and students returning to campus for the new semester are at a greater risk of catching it.

“In school environments, viruses are transmitted more easily,” said Dr. Kathleen Rindahl of Fresno State’s nursing department.

Symptoms for H1N1, a respiratory virus, include coughing, chest congestion, fever, body aches and headaches. Rindahl said the current strain of the virus is more severe and hard-hitting than previous years.

But most people who are dying from the virus already have an underlying illness, she said.  Older adults and infants with vulnerable immune systems are also more susceptible to the illness.

“A normal, healthy person is less likely to have a severe case of the flu or die from it,” Rindahl said.

She said the best way to prevent getting the flu is to get the flu shot. Last semester, the Student Health Center began issuing free flu shots in December. About 60 percent of people who get the flu shot do not get the flu, Rindahl said.

The flu shot is equipped with the H1N1 virus, which helps build immunity to it and have a better chance at fighting the virus if infected.

Getting the flu shot will not cause a person to get the flu, Rindahl emphasized. Someone who contracts the flu after getting the flu shot was likely infected prior to getting the shot, she said. Normally, flu symptoms are evident about five to seven days after infected.

“It doesn’t happen overnight,” she said.

Rindahl stressed hand washing as a way to prevent the flu. She said using sanitizing wipes on things like grocery carts is not a bad idea, either.

University Courtyard provides sanitation centers throughout the buildings for students on campus, said its marketing coordinator Matthew Gorella. The sanitation centers include hand sanitizers and helpful tips on how to avoid spreading the flu.

“University Courtyard staff encourages any sick student to take the short walk across Barton Avenue to the Student Health Center and receive treatment,” Gorella said.

The dorms have a housekeeping staff that cleans the halls daily. The Residence Dining Hall also offers sick trays to residents that have contracted the flu, Gorella said.

So far, no cases of the flu have been reported to University Courtyard staff.