University of Arkansas Students Return to Heavy Flu Season
Pat Walker Health Center diagnosed flu cases as early as ThanksgivingWednesday, January 16, 2013
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. –The Pat Walker Health Center at the University of Arkansas has already seen flu cases on campus, and the disease is hitting earlier than normal. Meanwhile, health officials in Washington County are gearing up for a heavy flu season, as are health officials across the United States.
The Health Center saw its first case of the flu the week after Thanksgiving. Cases continued to increase up to the winter break.
“This is early for us,” said Lyn Edington, director of nursing for the center. “We have seen several cases last week and expect the number to rise as the students return to campus. The local emergency rooms are reporting high flu activity. So, we are gearing up for a very heavy flu season.”
The most telling symptom of the flu is the sudden onset of symptoms. Colds start slowly with a sore throat and slight runny nose and symptoms peak on the third day. Fever is rarely over 100 degrees. The flu hits suddenly “like a truck” with high fever (above 102 degrees), headache, cough and body aches. Symptoms usually last from seven to 10 days but fatigue can linger for two or more weeks. Once someone has had “real flu” they never confuse it with a cold.
“We are most concerned about influenza complications, usually pneumonia, which can be fatal in the very young, patients with chronic medical conditions or the very old,” Edington said. “Complications can occur 10 or more days after the onset of flu symptoms. Anyone having difficulty breathing, chest pain, a painful cough or fever that does not respond to over the counter medications they should seek immediate medical care.”
Flu is very contagious and is spread by respiratory droplets from coughs or sneezes. The incubation period is about three days. People can be contagious before they have symptoms.
Here are some tips from the staff at the Pat Walker Health Center for trying to minimize the risk of getting the flu:
1. Get a flu shot and encourage others to get one. It is not too late. There is still some vaccine available at local pharmacies, but it is in limited supply.
2. Know correct respiratory hygiene and teach others. You should cough or sneeze into the crook of your sleeve (a “Dracula cough”) or into a tissue.
3. Wash your hands and use hand sanitizer often. Avoid touching your face or eyes. The virus can enter through the mucus membranes in your nose, mouth and eyes if you have it on your hands.
4. Spray computers, phones and other shared surfaces with a disinfectant spray such as Lysol.
5. Students with flu symptoms should isolate themselves in their rooms and wear a mask to keep from spreading the virus. If they can go home by private car they should and stay home until they have been fever free, without medication, for 24 hours.
6. Students should contact their instructors and let them know they have flu. They should not go to class with flu symptoms. Faculty and staff should not go to work with flu symptoms.
7. Stock up on clear liquids, soups and Jello; students should keep those in their rooms. Some flu strains have associated nausea and vomiting.
8. Monitor temperatures frequently. Buy a thermometer if you don’t have one.
9. Have medications with ibuprofen or acetaminophen on hand. The Pat Walker Health Center does not recommend aspirin for anyone with flu symptoms.
10. Encourage anyone on campus with flu symptoms to call the Pat Walker Health Center at 575-4451. The center will have walk-in clinics for students with flu symptoms and nurses are available for phone consults.
Most healthy young people recover from the flu quickly with supportive care, rest, increased fluid intake and over-the-counter medications. Students with chronic medical problems such as diabetes or asthma should see a doctor if they have flu symptoms. Anti-viral medications such as Tamiflu do not cure the flu. They can shorten the duration and severity of symptoms and can be used to prevent the flu in the event of an exposure. Unfortunately, these anti-viral medications only prevent infection while you are taking them and people can't take them for the whole flu season. Exposure is likely at some point if this season turns out to be as bad as predicted.
Scott Flanagin, director of communications
Division of Student Affairs
Steve Voorhies, manager of media relations
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