Flu season at the University of Richmond is typical this year, despite recent news reports that the national flu season is more intense than previous years.
Every U.S. state, with the exception of Hawaii, has reported “widespread flu activity,” according to a New York Times article published on Jan. 26.
Research from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention shows that the peak of flu season is from December to February, which is right when students are returning to campus after winter break.
On Jan. 31, Mia Reinoso Genoni and Joe Boehman, deans of Westhampton College and Richmond College, sent a letter to students via email which stated that the Student Health Center was experiencing a "typical flu season at UR, with the number of calls and visits no greater than usual.”
Sarah Fisher, the nursing supervisor at the health center, agreed with the deans' statement and said that UR had had a relatively normal flu year. She said this was because the health center staff had seen a mild flu season for the past few years, which made this “normal” season seem heavier.
“The flu vaccine didn’t quite hit the strand,” Fisher said. “A number of people we have seen did have the flu shot but it didn’t work.”
According to Quartz, a digital news outlet, a paper from Canadian scientists said that the flu vaccine was only 17 percent effective against H3N2, the strain causing 80 percent of flu illnesses.
Nonetheless, Fisher said she would still recommend that students got the flu shot if they had not already.
“It is helping people have milder illness and maybe not get as sick as they normally would or for as long,” Fisher said.
The health center ran out of vaccines after the second week of classes and had to find a second supply.
Despite the convenient location of the health center, students may be turning to other health service options, such as Patient First or the emergency room. Fisher said some students had used these options as an urgent care center, which may have caused the health center's numbers to be skewed.
The health center also does not accept health insurance. Students are advised to file a claim with their insurance after paying for any services during their visit.
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Valerie Szalanczy, sophomore, began experiencing flu-like symptoms the day after her sorority's bid day.
“I went to Patient First and they ran a few tests on me and they told me I had strain B, and that I couldn’t go to classes for the rest of the week, or until 24 hours after my fever broke,” Szalanczy said. “The Student Health Center never seems to help me.”
According to the Times' article, this year the flu “is now on track to equal or surpass that of the 2014-2015 flu season. In that year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates, 34 million Americans got the flu, 710,000 were hospitalized and about 56,000 died.”
Fisher said that the health center had stopped testing for the flu once its presence had been confirmed in the UR community because of costs and inaccuracies in the test. To help students who seek help at the health center, nurses prescribe Tamiflu in order to reduce the severity of the flu and take up to one day off its duration, Fisher said.
“Sometimes students want to feel better really quickly, but it lasts seven to ten days,” Fisher said. “There is only so much you can do to shorten the life of it. It’s a virus, not a bacterial infection.”
Fisher also said she recommended that students get seven to eight hours of sleep, moderate exercise, eat well, wash their hands and avoid sharing utensils and drinks to slow down the flu’s spread.
“I was put on Tamiflu on Tuesday night, and by Wednesday afternoon my fever had broken,” Szalanczy said. “Between Tamiflu, sleeping a lot and having no classes, I was able to recover and feel better by Friday.”
In their email, the deans recommended self-isolation. They wrote to students suggesting that they stayed out of classes and social activities until 24 hours after their symptoms had left and their fever had broken.
“It’s hard this time of year because there are sorority and fraternity things happening, so that is a lot of hand-shaking,” Fisher said. “I don’t know why it happens in flu season, but we think that causes it to spread a lot.”
With Tamiflu and rest, Fisher said the flu should go away. But she warned that students should seek medical care if symptoms seemed to get worse after a week.
Contact news writer Stacey Dec at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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