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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Flu season hits the UA campus

    The Arizona Department of Health Services has given the recent influenza outbreak widespread status after a confirmed 954 cases in Arizona during the current flu season.

    Despite the sweeping status of the flu across Arizona, there is no need for UA students to panic, said Eskild Petersen, infectious disease specialist for University Medical Center.

    While a flu outbreak typically occurs each year during the winter months, the past few flu seasons have been unusually mild. Since the outbreak is returning to its average status this year, it just seems as though the outbreak is worse, said David Salafsky, coordinator of harm and risk reduction for Campus Health Service.

    “”This is an average flu season,”” he said.

    “”Given the odds, it’s not surprising that we would return to a more average flu season this year.””

    This season’s outbreak still has the potential to spell disaster for Southern Arizona. Since the flu season is not yet over, the outbreak still has the ability to become even more widespread in the coming months, Petersen said.

    “”It depends how long (the flu) hangs around,”” he said. “”If this continues for weeks to come, it could get very serious.””

    How to Avoid the Flu

    ? Wash your hands often.
    ? Stay away from people with the cold.
    ? Clean your desk, keyboard and mouse.
    ? Get plenty of sleep.
    ? Manage your stress levels.
    ? Eat nutritious foods.
    ? Get a flu vaccination.
    ? Cover your mouth after amd during a sneeze or cough.

    Tips were gathered from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration Web site.

    An outbreak means longer waits for those taking advantage of the emergency room at UMC.

    Since hospital beds at UMC are difficult to come by anyway, the recent flu outbreak makes the task of finding adequate space problematic, he said.

    While the flu season can be demanding on local health services, Campus Health plans to attack the problem directly by providing enough health personnel to deal with the situation, Salafsky said.

    “”There is certainly more demand for clinical services during cold and flu season,”” he said. “”But we plan for these increases and tend to be well-prepared for them.””

    To avoid the risk of contracting the flu, students still have time to receive flu shots at Campus Health and UMC, since flu season can sometimes extend into May. The vaccines are highly effective, because each year a new vaccine is created specifically for that year’s virus strain, as the flu can change from year to year, Petersen said.

    For those who would rather skip the needle, there are several common-sense tactics that should be adopted in order to reduce the risk of contraction, Salafsky said.

    These techniques include washing one’s hands often and covering one’s mouth or nose when coughing or sneezing, he said.

    “”Keep in mind that a healthy immune system is your best defense against the flu,”” Salafsky said. “”Be sure to get plenty of sleep, manage your stress levels and eat nutritious foods.””

    For students on the UA campus, avoiding contact with exposed individuals is not always an easy task. The vast crowds and close-quartered classrooms of the university can be virus traps, said Connie Moore, a nurse who specializes in infectious diseases at UMC.

    To counter these factors, students who recognize they are ill should stay home instead of infecting others. Professors should also be on the lookout for sick students, she said.

    Besides classrooms, students should also look out for signs of the flu in other high-traffic areas, Moore said.

    Ben Rawlins, an engineering sophomore who frequents the Student Recreation Center, attempts to keep influenza at bay by sanitizing the recreational equipment with the cleaning agent provided.

    “”There is no way that I would work out at the Rec Center without that stuff,”” he said.

    After someone suspects they may have contracted the flu, they should first take a few days to recuperate rather than running straight to the nearest medical institution, Petersen said.

    “”When I was sick with the flu (in late January), I just stayed home and made sure that I got a lot of sleep,”” said Dale Riggins, a business sophomore. “”After a couple of days, I was fine.””

    One of the most dangerous situations facing those with the flu is the risk of second-day infection, Petersen said.

    When flu victims become ill, recover and relapse quickly back to flu symptoms, they may have developed a serious infection and should immediately seek medical attention, he said.

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