Posted by: Jeff | November 25, 2009

College in a Time of Swine Flu

(updated below)

The university where I work just announced free swine flu vaccinations for students and staff next week, and it reminded me of this fascinating look at how this particular vaccine is created:

For the shot vaccine, the virus is sterilized so that it won’t make anyone sick. This is the magic part of the vaccine: it’s got the pandemic virus antigens that make your body produce the antibodies to fight the virus but the virus is inactive so it won’t make you ill. For the nasal spray vaccine, the virus is left alive and attenuated to survive only in the nose and not the warmer lungs; it’ll infect you enough to produce antibodies but not enough to make you sick. (Hat Tip:

Trust me, it’s interesting stuff.  And in case you think that’s fodder for the “vaccines make you sick” meme, read the rest of the article – there are safeguards in place.

My university initially announced that the peak of the expected epidemiological curve would hit at the end of October.  Well into November, I have noticed an overall decrease in students claiming sickness, but the infection rate didn’t seem as steep as expected.  Anybody else working in education that expected higher transmission rates?

Update: Well, evidently Bloomberg reads this blog and investigated the college transmission rates:

Swine flu infection rates at U.S. colleges and universities fell 37 percent last week, adding more evidence that the second wave of pandemic flu has peaked.

The more you know.

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