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Mason Hosts H1N1 Influenza Town Hall

By Mason Votes Staff Writer Ethan Vaughan

Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan hosted a town hall on flu prevention this morning in George Mason University’s Dewberry Hall.

“We keep hearing people say that this is ‘just’ the flu,” Sebelius said. “That it’s not a big deal. It’s ‘just’ the flu. But ‘just’ the flu kills 36,000 Americans every year and leaves 200,000 hospitalized, and ‘just’ the flu cutting through schools, campuses, and daycare centers has a huge impact.”

According to Sebelius, college students are more susceptible to H1N1,“for some reason, older Americans are in fact more resistant to it, which isn’t usually the case.”

The event, which was moderated by Student Government President Dev Dasgupta, also featured Lisa Barrios of the Centers for Disease Control who urged students to take basic steps such as regularly wiping down shared surfaces like kitchen countertops and computer keyboards and washing hands on a routine basis.

Sebelius encouraged students to get vaccinated against both the seasonal flu and H1N1 as a part of their prevention plan. “The bulk of the [H1N1] vaccine will start flowing in mid October,” Sebelius said. “And it will keep flowing every week. We’re going to be ramping it up to robust levels.”

Mason has announced that it will be offering the H1N1 vaccine at Student Health Services for free.

“This flu spreads easily,” Barrios said. “It’s so important to stay home. Some universities have even started making special dormitories for people infected with the virus.” She also called on student cooperation, saying that roommates should help by bringing sick individuals food and school assignments. She also cautioned people to look for more serious signs.

“Usual symptoms include runny nose and body ache but people suffering from H1N1 exhibit higher levels of vomiting and diarrhea, which isn’t as common with the regular flu,” said Barrios. “If skin turns blue, purple, or gray, or the fever goes away and then comes back, if someone is lethargic and can’t get out of bed, then that’s something really serious and you need to see a health care provider right away.”

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