H1N1 spreads to Ryerson

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The chills, coughs, aches and fatigue: it’s an experience that’s familiar for most people except Meagan Blodgett – until now. The 21-year-old, who has never even had the flu before, got her first taste of it with H1N1 last month. “For me, it was a shock,” said Blodgett. “This is the first time I’ve ever gone through anything like this.” Blodgett lost her voice on Aug. 14 – the first in a series of symptoms. The next day, it all hit at once – extreme fatigue, headache, chills, loss of appetite, muscle aches, pressure behind her eyes and chest and then fever. “I had the worst headache; it was worse than migraines,” Blodgett said. “I was sweating really bad but still freezing. I’d be drenched 15 minutes later from taking a nap.” By then she knew it was more that just a cold. A trip to Ryerson’s medical centre confirmed her suspicion – it was H1N1. Blodgett said that bloodwork was not done because it would simply confirm H1N1. She was given no treatments, but advised to stay home for at least a week, get plenty of rest, fluids and to eat. Su-Ting Teo, director of student health and wellness, says that although H1N1 cannot be confirmed by symptoms alone, the medical centre treats it just like the regular flu. “The recommendation is to not test at this time as most of the flus are assumed to be H1N1 and it is not being treated any differently from a regular flu if the symptoms are mild,” Teo said in an e-mail. According to Toronto Public Health, symptoms can include fever, chills, cough, sore throat, headache, muscle aches, fatigue, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea – similar to the flu. Julia Lewis, director for the Centre for Environmental Health, Safety and Security, said that as of now, the university cannot keep track of the number of cases at Ryerson. It’s up to individuals who are sick with flu to let the administration know. Ryerson is not obligated to inform its community of the number of H1N1 cases, but Lewis said she presumes there are many individuals who have had or currently have H1N1. “I can tell you within our population there will be many cases of H1N1. We are no different than the population of the city,” said Lewis. Teo said that Ryerson will be keeping an eye on the virus. “There will be protocols in place to do so soon by tracking the number of patients with symptoms and referral to hospitals to allow follow-up and see if there are significant increases.” For this flu season, Teo said the centre will have the flu shot and two H1N1 vaccinations that will be available in November.


  1. Sadly, there was an outbreak in the Nursing Program’s Office at Ryerson in 2009. Having worked on the front lines of the SARS epidemic in 2003, I was constantly after a colleague at Ryerson as to why their hand cleansing dispensers were empty when they have nurses coming in from all over the City of Toronto to see them on a daily basis – often in their scrubs. Ryerson’s Infection Control Team advised them that they had nothing to worry about; it was a non-issue. That individual contracted H1N1 in the spring of that year, being one of the 8,500 odd cases in Ontario and luckily surviving it.

    From my personal experience in 2003 with SARS, I felt strongly at that point that the virus could be transmitted through droplets from sneezing, coughing or breathing in the same space with someone infected with the virus; this proved out later in the epidemic. The Ministries of Health were constantly changing the protocol for protection on the front lines; lessons were learned, and “mask-fit testing” became mandatory thereafter.

    The main intake hospital for Toronto cases, had new cases and quarantines after one of their Nursing Directors broke protocol to visit two of their nursing team in isolation; though fully garbed and protected, the virus spread.

    In 2003, I had concern that the rotation of nurses between hospitals could be a cause for concern; this fell on deaf ears.

    In closing, this post is for the record going forward that individuals must take personal responsibility to ensure that their work environment has properly maintained hand cleansing dispensers and that visitors from the health care community coming to their workplace use them. Also, that workers in healthcare lose their lackadaisical attitude towards their own potential to contract and spread viruses.

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