The office at the East Texas Medical Center Clinic on the second floor of Rogers’ Student Center has officially hit its busy season. Up to 80 students per day visit the clinic and about half are particularly concerned with the flu.
“Hectic is the best word to describe the days here lately,” Tyler Junior College’s on-campus nurse Frank Escobedo said.
So far, there have been 83 cases of H1N1 among students and faculty this semester compared to no cases at all last semester.
“The virus is very infectious, and we are in a high-risk population what with enclosed areas such as dorms and classrooms,” said Dr. Stephanie Eijsink, ETMC First Physicians Clinic at TJC.
The virus is an upper-respiratory droplet infection – spread through the air and direct contact.
Symptoms of the virus include sudden onset, high fever, headache – borderline migraine, nausea and body chills. Eijsink said the most important symptoms to be aware of are the sudden onset and severe fever and headache.
The virus has even infected TJC’s on-campus nurse working in the clinic but he is in remission and recovering well.
“I needed sleep and rest, which I didn’t get. That’s why it took me so long to get better,” Escobedo said.
The virus has hit every department on campus including the Speech and Theatre Department. “Henry V” finished its last showing Oct. 11, and the male lead, TJC freshman Caden Crawford, had contracted the virus.
“He seemed really tired and weak. I don’t know how he could’ve done the show,” freshman co-cast member Megan Bryant said.
With eight performances, clearly the virus would take a toll on anyone over such a strenuous period of time.
The ETMC clinic currently is in possession of seasonal flu shots but is running low. However, they are awaiting the arrival of H1N1 vaccinations. The clinic has begun work on a 10-day protocol to use the 12,500 vaccinations it will receive relatively soon to inoculate everyone on campus for free.
According to a July 25 article in the Chicago Tribune, health officials say up to 40 percent of Americans could get H1N1 this year and several hundred thousand could die without a successful vaccine campaign.
The virus’ popularity in the media has many students running scared, jumping the gun at any slight sign of contracting the virus.
“The media has made such an over-exaggerated hysteria, that it seems to be worse than the disease itself,” Escobedo said.
As long as the student and faculty population on campus are careful, they can avoid contracting the virus.
“Hygiene is the alpha and omega of prevention. Wash your hands often, avoid sharing drinks, and they will be less likely to catch the virus,” Eijsink said.
Eijsink also advises the student body to use hand sanitizers sparingly when they are available.
The clinic is staffed 8 a.m. until 5 p.m. on weekdays. In addition, registered nurses from ETMC offer continuous after hours referral care by phone.
These nurses triage the conditions of TJC students and staff members using an advanced computer-driven protocol system. If the nurses determine that immediate primary care is needed after hours, ETMC will offer free transportation for on-campus TJC students to and from the ETMC emergency center in Tyler. The number to call in case of an emergency is (903) 510-ETMC.