Campus Life

Vigilance, vaccination encouraged to stem flu

If there ever was a doubt that H1N1 Infleunza would impact the University of Lethbridge, that was cast aside when the Pronghorns women's hockey team was forced to postpone a Canada West hockey series at the end of October.

With a quarter of the team's roster unable to play because they were experiencing flu-like symptoms, the Pronghorns and University of Saskatchewan athletics programs made a joint decision to postpone the Oct. 30-31 series and reschedule it to January, 2010.

"I applaud the actions taken to protect the health of the sports teams involved,"
U of L Health Centre manager Lori Weber, RN, says. "As a reminder, all those involved in any sport should be taking extra vigilance with cleaning sports equipment, not sharing water bottles, mouth guards or other equipment and notifying their coach/team when they are ill."

While the Pronghorns likely could have played the series shorthanded, the decision to postpone was made as much to protect fellow teammates from becoming ill and stemming the spread of the flu.

"It was very important to postpone this series to ensure that our team members and our visitors were not further exposed to the flu-like symptoms that have been spreading through the community," says Pronghorns assistant coach Deb Marek. "We currently have six players and coach Chandy Kaip away ill, and their health and well-being is critical."

For Weber, the incidence of sickness served as an opportunity to remind the University community to continue to be vigilant in practicing established protocols to ward off the flu.

"The team illness is unfortunate, but not a surprise considering that there are currently more than 300 students, staff and faculty listed as ill on the
U of L's flu registry – about three percent of the school's student and employee population," she says.

The registry's numbers have been picking up steam of late, moving from just over 70 registrants to more than 300 in a span of 10 days.

Weber continues to advise persons to take advantage of the free H1N1 vaccinations that are currently being offered by Alberta Health Services at various sites throughout southern Alberta. The University of Lethbridge is expected to have its own vaccine in short order and will begin administering shots when given the go ahead from Alberta Health Services.

"The fact that we have less than five per cent of our population ill is a testament to people paying heed to the warnings we have posted throughout campus," Weber says. "But with flu so prevalent in the community, it's impossible to keep it out of the University environment. Therefore we urge people to get vaccinated and continue to be diligent with hand washing and sanitizing to keep our levels as low as possible."