|N.C. Institute for Public Health joins state H1N1 Campus Campaign|
|February 19, 2010|
With H1N1 influenza still circulating and another dangerous wave of the disease still possible, students on college campuses are particularly at risk of infection because of the close contact they have in classes, dormitories and cafeterias.
However, state records show only 5 percent of people in the college age group (19- to 24-year-olds) have been immunized against the virus.
In response, the N.C. Institute for Public Health, part of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Gillings School of Global Public Health, is partnering with the N.C. Division of Public Health for a college immunization campaign.
College mascots are joining the campaign to encourage students to get immunized. Mascots from eight colleges and universities will sport arm bandages with the message "The Flu Stops With Me" at selected basketball games during February. Student health services personnel will offer immunization clinics at games to reach students and others who have not yet been vaccinated.
The Institute will partner with student health services on campuses and with local health departments to make the H1N1 flu vaccine easily accessible for students. It also will help with data collection and evaluation of the H1N1 campus campaign activities. The campaign includes posters, ads and stickers for each college campus crafted by Institute staff.
"It makes sense that the Institute, as the outreach arm of the public health school, is involved," said Leah Devlin, DDS, MPH, former state health director and Gillings Visiting Professor at UNC. "We need to get students' attention that H1N1 is still out there and serious, and we need to involve local health departments in these campus efforts."
From late January through early February, student health centers treated more cases of influenza-like illnesses compared to other providers throughout the state. A similar trend was evident during the fall wave of H1N1, with student health centers consistently seeing higher than average rates of flu. However, statistics from the state's immunization branch show college-age individuals remain the least immunized overall.
"Over the years, students have told me they never get vaccinated against the flu because they never get the flu," said Mary Covington, MD, executive director at Campus Health Services at UNC-Chapel Hill. "Statistics say otherwise, especially with H1N1 influenza. The campaign needs to get the message out that it is not too late - the vaccine is safe and effective and can prevent or minimize the morbidity and mortality of H1N1 influenza in this vulnerable population."
Students who stop by the game clinics or student health services for H1N1 vaccine or information can register for a chance to win an iPod touch between now and March 1.
Besides UNC-Chapel Hill, colleges involved in the campaign include UNC-Charlotte, North Carolina A&T, UNC-Wilmington and N.C. State, Fayetteville State, East Carolina and Winston-Salem State universities.
For information about H1N1 and immunization clinics, see www.flu.nc.gov. Students also may check with the student health center at their university.
A list of game-day H1N1 vaccination clinics and promotions is available online.
|Last updated February 19, 2010|