PSU catches the Flu
Students sick, no cause for alarm
Marcus Clem | Copy Editor
Jace Erwin got a questionable gift for the holidays: influenza.
“I came down with flu toward the end of break,” Erwin, junior in biology, said. “I was out for about a week … Everything was sore and swollen, so I thought I had mononucleosis or staff infection.”
Erwin got the flu shot, so his doctor gave him amoxicillin.
Both the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta and Carrie Farrington, nurse at Bryant Student Health Center, say there is no real cause for alarm.
“There is nothing out of the ordinary about the flu this year,” Farrington said. “Flu does tend to cycle, and it’s good some years and bad others, but there is nothing that has been considered a pandemic or an outbreak of specific concern.”
Farrington says that the health center has tracked about 20 cases of suspected influenza on campus since people started returning from winter break. Only one of those cases was laboratory-tested, and that was to identify which strain of flu is present here for records and research purposes, Farrington says.
Persons who come into the health center with flu symptoms are advised to stay home from work. By quarantining themselves within their residence until they feel better, Farrington says, patients contribute immeasurably to tamping down on the rate of infection on campus.
“The most predictable thing about flu is that it is unpredictable.”
During a press conference last week, this is what Dr. Thomas Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, had to say about the 2012-2013 seasonal influenza outbreak.
Influenza virus mutates every year in multiple different directions, and predicting where those directions go and how to address them is, the CDC readily admits, a guessing game.
That’s not even counting the continual monitoring of strains like H1N1 and H5N1, known as swine flu and bird flu, respectively, that continually kill off populations of pigs and poultry around the world and, at the various moments in history where the viruses have “jumped” to infect humans, created global disease emergencies.
Flu is spread primarily through spores of infected mucus and other cough- and sneeze-triggered discharge. By regularly washing their hands and staying away from sick persons, Pitt State students and staff can keep everyone healthy, she says.
So, what else can be done to contain the disease? It’s not too late, experts say, to get the vaccine.
Vaccination schedules are a guessing game, the CDC says, but year after year their people put out a vaccine that generally succeeds in protecting recipients against anything more than minor illness. Any time previous patterns of infestation change, as they do rapidly and often, the schedule of federally regulated vaccination against the disease must also change, yet preliminary monitoring of the 2012-2013 flu season shows roughly 90 percent vaccination coverage.
“Run, don’t walk, to the nearest vaccination site,” Frieden said during the press conference.
According to the CDC, Those who get sick anyway have drugs like Tamiflu available to help with symptoms and can be treated with antiviral and other drugs on an inpatient basis should the need arise. Regular flu severely sickens or kills the healthy only on very rare occasions.
About 200,000 hospitalizations and 40,000 deaths are caused by the disease every year, but these cases represent the very young, the very old, or persons with a compromised immune system, such as AIDS or cancer patients. In most of those cases, the vaccine helps.
Bryant Student Health Center, according to a Mr. Bulk-E message sent to all students and staff last week, is out of vaccines. Farrington also confirmed this and that the health center does not plan to acquire more doses. However, as of press time, flu vaccine is still available at the Crawford County Health Department, 111 E. Forest. The department can be reached at 231-5411. Area pharmacies also typically maintain a vaccination program, Farrington says.