Vaccinations, sanitation essential to preventing flu
The flu and cold have returned for another season this year, according to Mary Beth Costello, Director of Health Services.
“Health Services has begun to see students who have cold and allergy symptoms,” Costello said. “These symptoms are quite common for this time of year.”
According to Costello, Health Services has seen 104 total cases of cold, cough and respiratory symptoms this year, which is approximately the same as last year. She said that total office visits since Sept. 1 were 476.
“It is hard to say what, if any, number of the 104 were flu,” Costello said. “I can tell you that we had some maybe’s, less than 10, but usually you need to wait a few days and see how things progress.”
Sophomore Mercedes Cunningham was one of those students. She was sick for approximately a week. During that time, Cunningham sought help from Health Services.
“I did go to Health Services and they were helpful,” Cunningham said. “They pointed me toward the right medications.”
According to Costello, a cold is typically characterized by a runny or stuffy nose.
The flu however is worse, including fever, body aches, a dry cough and extreme tiredness.
Dormitory living contributes to the spread of viruses among students.
“Being in close quarters can increase risk as these viruses are typically spread by droplet,” Costello said. “It is important to teach everyone that coughs and sneezes should be into our elbows, sleeves and tissues as to minimize the spread of these germs.”
Costello also said that routine hand washing, wipe downs of sinks, doorknobs and desktops and an airing of living quarters can help deter germs.
Costello encourages those with asthma and diabetes to make an appointment as flu and cold complications are more common for those people.
Students can prevent sickness by washing their hands frequently, avoiding close contact with those who are sick, eating healthy and getting enough rest, according to Costello.
Costello also recommends the flu vaccine.
The University Center will offer flu vaccines on Oct. 20 from 1 p.m. to 7 p.m.
Health Services will also offer appointments to those who cannot attend on Oct. 20.
“I think what is important to stress is that the best prevention for flu is to get vaccinated,” Costello said. “Even if students were vaccinated last year, they need to be vaccinated again this year.”
According to Costello, the flu virus mutates each year which is why an individual would need to get vaccinated every year.
Although the vaccine is $30, most health insurance plans will cover it.
The vaccine also works against seasonal flu and H1N1 strands.
“It takes approximately two weeks for the vaccine to build immunity in your system, so now is a great time to receive it,” Costello said.
The University offered flu vaccines last Sept. and saw an influx of 641 students, faculty and staff, as reported by The Setonian Sept. 27, 2009. In 2008, only 277 vaccines were given to the same group, last year’s article said.
Costello reported the flu season runs from October to May, with peak months being January and February.
“Take some time now to prepare a ‘flu kit’,” Costello said. “Everyone should have a thermometer and medicines like Acetaminophen or Ibuprofen that will help reduce fever and provide comfort.”
Acetaminophen is most commonly found in Tylenol and Advil. Ibuprofen is most commonly known as Motrin.
Reports of students being unable to buy flu and cold medicine at the bookstore have been circulating.
Because of this, some students have resorted to going off-campus to find what they need.
“I went to Rite Aid, and they had what I was looking for,” Cunningham said.
Students at higher risk or with health concerns can make an appointment with Health Services.
Jessica Card can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.