The flu virus is not as prevalent on the Richmond campus as in the rest of the country, said Sarah Fisher, nurse supervisor at the Student Health Center.
This year’s respiratory influenza virus had been “very manageable.” There have been about 10-12 positive flu tests on campus this year, Fisher said.
But that does not mean that those have been the only cases of the flu. The flu test is 60 to 70 percent accurate, and a negative result does not automatically rule out a flu diagnosis, Fisher said.
Symptoms include fever, coughing, body aches, headache, sore throat, runny nose, stuffy nose, fatigue and sometimes nausea, Fisher said. Because there are so many potential symptoms, assuming a person has the flu is not always an accurate solution, because strep throat and meningitis both have similar symptoms, she said.
This school year’s flu arrived earlier than in past years. The health center’s first positive test came in December before exam week. Normally, there is a “big spike” when students return to campus after Winter break, but that was not the case this year, Fisher said. Since the start of the spring semester, there have been about two to three students a day who have come to the health center complaining of flu-like symptoms, Fisher said.
Fisher said she believed the main reason the flu had spread was that sick students had attended class when they should not have. Fisher also said rush week having been held during prime flu season had not helped, as students had become run down from the lack of sleep.
People can increase their chances of avoiding the flu by getting eight hours of sleep to boost their immune system, limiting alcohol consumption, not smoking and eating right, Fisher said. This can be difficult for college students, she said.
“I haven’t gotten the shot, but I’m not afraid to catch the flu because I have a strong immune system,” sophomore Janelle Whitehurst said.
The flu is very contagious, Fisher said. The best ways to prevent getting sick are to have a flu shot and to properly wash hands.
About 520 flu vaccinations have been administered this year, Fisher said, and even more students received shots over the Thanksgiving and winter breaks.
The health center is still offering the shot for $15. The only side effect is a potentially sore arm that lasts for a day. The vaccine takes effect after two weeks.
“I know someone who had the flu, but I’m not afraid of getting it,” sophomore Jen Cecilione said. “I didn’t get a flu shot, and I’m not going to. I’ll take my chances of catching it.”
Fisher said: “This year’s vaccine is as good as any year’s and does not give you the flu. If you happen to get sick, it is purely coincidental.”
Hand sanitizer is helpful, but nothing is better than washing your hands with soap and warm water for 20 seconds, Fisher said. Students should keep their distance from those who are coughing and potentially spreading the virus, she said.
It is important for anyone who has a fever or the flu to stay in their room until they do not have a fever for 24 hours and are not taking any fever-reducing medication, Fisher said.
The health center is taking calls and appointments for the flu vaccination, Fisher said, and she urged students to call, as opposed to walk in, because it was much faster to make an appointment ahead of time.
The month of March is when the flu season generally ends, and there are less flu cases after spring break. “That’s when we heave a sigh of relief,” Fisher said.
Contact staff writer Renée Ruggeri at firstname.lastname@example.org