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Flu epidemic infects hundreds on campus

by Tori Martinez - LIFESTYLES EDITOR
Tue, Feb 14th 2017 11:00 pm
Treating the symptoms
Treating the symptoms

The influenza virus has taken hold of The College at Brockport and its students, resulting in more than 350 cases this season. Libby Caruso, director of Health and Counseling Services at Hazen Center for Integrated Care, said the flu outbreak on campus seems to have began around February 1.

In the past week, more than 130 students have called Hazen Hall and been diagnosed over the phone and approximately 225 students with flu or flu-like illnesses have gone into Hazen over the past two weeks. As far as Caruso is aware, no students have been deemed severely ill or been hospitalized.

Hazen staff began asking students to call the health center before going in because it would help reduce spreading the flu to healthy students who stopped in for a checkup or something similar and it would reduce overcrowding in the waiting room. Staff are constantly cleaning and disinfecting the waiting room to prevent the spread of the virus.

When students initially started going into Hazen to be checked for the flu, the health center ran swabs to be sure students actually had the virus. After about 10 students tested positive, the center could stop running swabs because it knew what it was dealing with.

Chaley Swift, Administrative Assistant to the Vice President, sent an email to the college community on February 1 describing what the virus is, what to do if symptoms occur, how to treat it and what to do when someone no longer has the flu. She sent another, with the same information, on February 7 after the number of flu cases increased over the week.

So, what are symptoms of the flu? A fever above 100 degrees, body aches, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, headache, chills, fatigue and, in some cases, diarrhea and vomiting. What separates the flu from the common cold is the fever and body aches.

Treatment can be different for everyone. For the majority of young, healthy students, the best treatment is symptom management, meaning fever reducers and cough medication. This will help control symptoms, but will not cure someone who has the flu. Ultimately, sleep and time are what will get students back to a healthy state.

Elderly people, children and people with medical complications such as asthma, diabetes or immune disorders need to be treated with an antiviral medication.

An example of such would be Tamiflu. Anyone can take Tamiflu, but Caruso advises against it if it's not necessary. It may shorten the disease by a day or two, but can cause adverse side effects like nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.

"Sometimes it's better to just wait it out," Caruso said. "The real treatment, way to stop it, is to minimize contact with other people. Stay in your room. You don't feel well, so just stay home. Sleep, watch some Netflix, whatever. Don't be going to classes."

Staying home and sleeping will help heal those who are infected, but it will also help prevent the spread of the illness.

"That virus comes out of a person when they cough, breathe or sneeze," Caruso said. "It lands on a surface and can live there for up to 24 hours. If someone else touches it and then touches their eye, that's how it spreads."

Caruso said that although she cannot predict the number of flu cases to come within the next few weeks, she believes the numbers may begin to decrease.

"I think it's going to start to decline," Caruso said. "I think we may have peaked Thursday or Friday [February 9 and 10]. I have no way of predicting it, but I do think we have seen such an intense level ... that it will start to decline."

The health center has also asked students not to come in for a note to excuse a missed class or missed work because it takes the staff's attention away from sick people who need it. Students will receive a note electronically if needed.

"By and large, professors are very respectful," Caruso said. "I have not had a lot of pushback at all. People get it, and there's support from the [college] president on down, in terms of trying to keep the campus healthy. We're very lucky that way."

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