Tens Of Thousands of State Students At Risk

By: Lauren Zakalik Email
By: Lauren Zakalik Email

As college campuses race to piece together the swine flu puzzle, there are many unknowns; but there is one thing they do know for sure.

"The student age group is more susceptible than the older adults are," says Ingham County Health Department Director Dr. Dean Sienko.

And we're already seeing that to be true. Sienko says college students are more at risk because they live in close proximity to one another, there's a lot of stress related to their lives and they run their bodies ragged.

Notwithstanding the recent outbreaks at universities in Kansas and Pennsylvania, Sienko has some fears when it comes to Michigan State students.

"Right now they're suggesting that half the population will get sick from this [swine flu]. That would mean tens of thousands of students at Michigan State," he says.

Michigan State spokesman Kent Casella says they are altering their pandemic plan with new developments.

"That tells us we really need to be ready for a lot of different contingencies," Casella says.

But if an outbreak were to happen here, it wouldn't necessarily be uncharted territory for the university. Casella explains that a decade ago, they did a "great job" when they had a meningitis outbreak.

Our cameras were on campus for that event in 1999, when students lined the halls, making sure they got vaccinated for meningitis.

And even Tuesday, we found the university doing routine tuberculosis testing for international students.

Bottom line: State says they can handle it.

"We've adjusted out plans and continue to update our plans and are ready for what happens in the fall," Casella says.

But "ready" is a relative term.

"No," Sienko says, we're not ready, "because we don't have a vaccine. And there won't be one until mid-October."

And he says until we have a vaccine, we can't be protected as fully as we'd like to be.

In the meantime, he says continue good hygiene (washing hands, using hand sanitizer, etc.) and get lots of rest to build your immune system.

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