By Erik Prado
Most students would give almost anything to miss finals. But would it be worth missing finals if it meant being diagnosed with swine flu?
The week before finals during last school year, a student who wishes to remain anonymous, was diagnosed with H1N1 influenza. This forced her to miss the last week of school, including finals.
“I was pretty surprised. My doctor had said that I was only the second person she had diagnosed,” said Jane Doe, now a junior.
The swine flu outbreak of 2009 began mid-April. Since then, there have been 50 million cases of swine flu in the country, mostly in young adults and children. There have been around 10,000 deaths, 1,100 of those children, according to information by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).
Shortly before June, the total number of confirmed swine flu cases in Illinois was around 930, according to statistics by the CDC.
Official CPS policy states that a student who has a confirmed case of swine flu must stay home for one week. For that one week home from school, Doe said she was also put under quarantine by her parents.
“I literally had to sit in my house all day, it was really boring. My phone was my best friend. There was nothing else to do,” said Doe. “My parents were really big on making sure I went nowhere because they didn’t want me getting other people sick.”
Her doctor told her she had only a mild strain of H1N1 so she was not given any medication to take.
“At that point, I think they didn’t have any medicine for it, or you only took it if you had a severe case,” said Doe. “[It] kinda sucked.”
After being diagnosed with the new influenza strain, Doe told some of her close friends, many of whom already knew Doe to be “accident prone.” Her friends’ responses were both serious and humorous.
“I told all my close friends, and they were like ‘Oh wow only you’,” said Doe.
“I laughed. Because what were the chances my best friend would end up with swine,” said Maddy Sopena, Div. 173.
Despite missing all of her finals, Doe was not in danger of failing any of her classes. She contacted all her teachers and explained the situation to them. She was then excused from all her finals.
“I had good grades and they knew I was a good student…I got extremely lucky for having such great teachers that understood and didn’t fail me for not taking the final,” said Doe.
According to Doe, it was around two weeks before she felt fully healthy.
How would Doe compare H1N1 to the regular flu?
“It just made me a lot more tired. Other than that, it wasn’t too different. I feel like it lasted longer as well,” she said Doe.
Another junior, Dan Quintero, Div. 167, was diagnosed with swine flu in early November.
“I just got it,” said Quintero. “I didn’t know anyone who had it. I guess it was from being out in public.”
Quintero believes he caught it from someone at a concert he attended a few days before he began to feel sick.
At first, Quintero did not think he had swine flu.
“I just thought it was a cold. But it started to get worse and I just felt really tired,” he said.
After one week, he visited the hospital where the doctor delivered the news to Quintero and his mother.
“I thought ‘are you kidding me?’,” he said. “My mom was more nervous than me.”
Like Doe, Quintero had to miss one week of school. He was able to make up all his classwork and homework after he returned.
“My teachers were really cool. They understood and they spread out all my work,” said Quintero.
Since the start of the H1N1 outbreak, Lane students have questioned the severity of the H1N1 influenza strain. Some have also questioned whether they need to get the vaccine, which was made available to the general public in October.
“I don’t feel threatened by H1N1. No one is worried,” said John Allan Wilson, Div. 051. He does not plan to get the vaccine.
“I’m not getting the vaccine because when you do get it, it often makes you more prone to getting sick,” said Clarissa Frayn, Div. 350.
Quintero said he would not be in line to receive the vaccine had he not already contracted swine flu.
“ For the most part, I have a strong immune system. I was just unlucky,” said Quintero.
In an article published on webMD.com, flu vaccines may cause common but mild symptoms. Common symptoms for the swine flu vaccine include headache, fatigue, fever, muscle ache, and nausea. Fainting is also common among teenagers who have received the vaccination. The symptoms, however, are a result of the immune system ramping up in response. The vaccine itself should not cause a case of swine flu.
When the vaccine first came out, students like Nic Anderson were in no hurry to get it. But for him, and others, their parents forced them to get the vaccine.
“So far, its worked,” said Anderson, Div. 051.
After he got the shot, Anderson began to feel some of the common side effects. Mainly, he described terrible headaches that would not go away. Anderson said the headaches lasted two days after he received the shot.
The potential side effects did not influence Anderson’s decision to receive the shot.
“I would have gotten [the shot] anyway,” said Anderson.
Doe said had she not been infected already, she would have gotten the vaccine.
Since the outbreak began, some students have taken issue with the media coverage.
“[Coverage] did blow out of proportion. During the the actual scare phase, it was [overblown]. The media made it a way to attract more viewers,” said Dylan Allingham, Div. 170. “It’s to a point where people are making fun of [swine flu], especially in high school communities.”
“People who have died from H1N1 have had pre-existing conditions. I haven’t heard of anyone who has died when they were perfectly healthy,” said Frayn.
However, there are students that believe the media coverage of the swine flu outbreak has been informative.
“Even though the media’s talk of [swine flu] kind of scares people, it’s good since it forces [people] to be more cautious,” said Doe.
“[The media] is just informing people how severe it is, even if they kind of exaggerate it,” said Anderson.
While the swine flu has slowed down, the CDC warns that it is around this time of the year that the flu season picks up.