Secretary of Education urges students to get vaccinated

In a conference call Thursday with college reporters across the country, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan reminded students to remain vigilant in protecting themselves against contracting the H1N1 virus.

“While we’ve seen a dip nationwide in the number of H1N1 cases reported, that still can change at any time,” Duncan said. “Flu season is just beginning, and the best way to prevent getting sick is to get vaccinated.”

Yale University Health Services received 1,500 new swine flu vaccines this week, Yale University Health Services Director Paul Genecin said. While the number of reported cases of flu-like illnesses at Yale have been falling, Genecin said YUHS still hopes to vaccinate as many people as soon as possible. Although YUHS reported several hundred cases per week last month, this number has fallen sharply in December, Genecin said.

There have been 1,900 reported cases of flu-like illnesses at Yale since Sept. 1, Genecin said Thursday night.

Because of the frequency with which college students come in contact with roommates, friends, professors and classmates, Duncan said students should get vaccinated immediately.

“Ideally, we want students to get vaccinated before the holiday break, even though they might be busy with final exams,” Duncan said. “If not, they should definitely get vaccinated over [winter] break.”

Duncan said students should take simple measures — such as wiping common surfaces with antibacterial wipes, washing their hands, and covering their mouths when they cough or sneeze — to reduce the chances of spreading the flu.

College students are one of the five groups most at risk to contract the swine flu, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The other four groups are pregnant women, health care workers, people who live with or care for infants and adults ages 25 to 65 with underlying chronic conditions such as asthma.

According to the American College Health Association, of which Yale is a member, there were about 1,000 new cases of flu-like illnesses last week, compared to nearly 4,000 the previous week.

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