Second semester at the University consists of new classes, colder weather and battling flu season.
As students returned for spring semester at the University, they were not only worrying about new adjustments to classes and schedules, but they were also concerned about their health. Although there aren’t exact numbers of students who currently have the flu, the Health Center has seen more students suffering from it this year compared to previous years.
“It wasn’t a question of if we would get hit with the flu, but rather when we would,” said Mary McGonigle, director of the University Health Center.
The University knew flu season was around the corner, but the question was how hard it was going to affect students.
The flu is a virus that spreads through respiratory discharge. Public association increases the chances of getting the virus. Shaking hands, hugging and touching public door knobs are all potential causes.
The duration of the virus varies. Typically, it can last up to two weeks depending on the individual. Sadly, there is no cure for it but sleep and rest. An anti-viral medicine called Tamiflu can diminish symptoms if given within 48 hours, but it does not alleviate all flu suffering.
The best way to prevent the flu is to get vaccinated. Only 10 percent of University students were vaccinated, which explains the level of illness staggering students now. The best time to get vaccinated is between September and October. During that time the virus is not actively spreading, allowing more time for immunity to develop.
“The ideal time to get the flu shot is in the fall before the illness peaks,” McGonigle said.
Simpler ways to stay away from the flu include washing one’s hands with soap and water, a well as always having hand sanitizer at the ready. These simple procedures can make a big difference in protecting students from this virus.
McGonigle traced the mass increase of the flu to sorority rush.
“Sorority rush definitely expedited the flu,” McGonigle said.
With 400 women to campus from different places in the country, the flu was bound to spread. It is very possible that the increased interaction between the women could have caused the flu to spread more than it was supposed to. Since rush took place a week earlier than the first day of classes, unvaccinated students who returned to campus for the first time were targets for the flu.
“The flu is a virus,” McGonigle said. “It has to work through your body. But we want more people to be careful and get it checked out before symptoms get worse.”
The effectiveness of the flu shot is based on predictions about which flu is going to hit. This year’s flu shot was based on last year’s flu strain and protects against two-thirds of the flu strains now circulating. This leaves one-third of the flu strains that are not responsive to the vaccine, so everyone has to be cautious.
This year the campus is seeing more sick students than usual. Whether it is due to unvaccinated students, close contact in sororities or careless hygiene, everyone is at risk.
The Health Center is open seven days a week, 24-hours a day. Although it is out of flu shots, pharmacies and local clinics still provide them, so students are advised to schedule a time and get vaccinated.