On Friday, Feb. 22 all Keene State College students received an email from the Center for Health and Wellness (CHW) regarding the flu. The email stated how the CHW has seen an increase in students presenting the flu and flu-like illness.
Coordinator of Wellness Education Tiffany Mathews said that the email was also sent out to inform students of what symptoms they should visit the CHW for and what symptoms not to.
“We try to prevent people who have flu-like illnesses to just come in without having talked with anyone,” Mathews said. “We prefer they call and then a nurse will be able to speak with a student and triage over the phone and know what the symptoms are that they are experiencing. Then the nurse will give them recommendations.”
However, the CHW would prefer that anyone who has a chronic illness, like asthma, diabetes or Crohn’s, to come in to be looked at as they are more prone to getting the flu. Also, if a student has been experiencing symptoms of the flu for less than 48 hours then they can come in and possibly be given an antiviral prescription that is only effective if taken immediately. Otherwise, it is suggested by the CHW that students take simple self-care measures.
One of the nurses at the CHW, Deborah Starratt, said that this separation between students who may actually have the flu and students who may just have a cold can also help prevent further contamination.
“If our waiting room is filled with people who are really sick and mixed with people who aren’t too sick, that’s only going to spread this even further,” Starratt said.
Starratt also suggests that students maintain a good sleep schedule, drink fluids and get rest to take care of any flu-like symptoms.
“It’s not necessary to always come to the doctor unless you’re having trouble breathing or trouble swallowing or you do have a chronic illness,” Starratt said.
The CHW also sent out a flu advisory to KSC faculty and staff. This was in hopes that they would understand the need for students who are sick to stay home to prevent further spreading of the illness.
“We put out the alert to staff and faculty too because we encourage adults, if they’re sick, to stay home or just do some self-care measures. We don’t require a doctor’s note from them,” Starratt said.
Mathews also said that it is important for professors to be aware that the flu is still present and that student health is a priority.
“We (the CHW) felt this was an opportunity for us to educate the professors and the staff about how it (the flu) is here and they may hear students calling out of class, and we are here to give advice, but it’s really more about the students’ need to take care of themselves,” Mathews said.
For students who want to prevent getting the flu, the flu shot is the most effective tool, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). According to the CDC website, even if someone who got vaccinated still gets the flu, it will still help those who are vulnerable who they come in contact with, like infants, the elderly and those with chronic illnesses. It also can help reduce the severity and duration of the flu.
“A 2018 study showed that among adults hospitalized with flu, vaccinated patients were 59 percent less likely to be admitted to the ICU than those who had not been vaccinated,” the CDC website states.
Mathews said that the CHW has had three confirmed cases of the flu and that it is currently peak flu season. The CHW still has flu vaccines available for students who are 18 years old or younger. The CHW is a part of the New Hampshire Immunization Program which provides free flu vaccines for minors. According to Mathews, there are still about 80 of those vaccines available. Students who are 19 years old or older can still visit their primary care provider or reach out to local urgent care facilities to find out if they are still offering the vaccine.
The Cheshire Medical Center did not respond to request for comment on their confirmed cases of the flu.
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