Feb 272012
Authors: Elisabeth Willner

It’s the tail-end of winter –– the weather is cold, students are spending time indoors and getting each other sick.

At least, that’s how it usually happens.

This year, the usual star of the season, the flu virus, has stayed relatively quiet. Across the country, flu rates are at a 29-year low, according to a recent report by National Public Radio. CSU has mirrored this national trend, according to Marie Allen, the coordinator of Marketing and Communications for the CSU Health Network.

The Health Network has given out 1,800 flu shots, which Allen describes as average, and treated fewer students who have contracted the flu.

“Since the beginning of the spring semester, we have had 24 cases diagnosed, which makes this a fairly mild year so far,” Allen said in an email to the Collegian.

According to the NPR report, weather has made the difference: flu survives best in cool and dry conditions, so warmer conditions may be killing the virus. The weather also indirectly impacts flu infections by encouraging people to spend more time outside, which decreases their exposure to the virus.

Working in close quarters, by contrast, can increase infection rate, so students have a higher risk of infection because of the time they spend in close contact with one and other, Allen said.

Still, the time students spend in classrooms and dorms doesn’t seem to be making CSU’s flu rate any higher.

“While we have not seen specific outbreaks in residence halls, we do worry that a person ill with influenza could spread it more easily living in the close quarters of residence halls,” Allen said.
“Fortunately, we have not seen this happen.”

Freshman biomedical engineering major Danielle Weaver said that, even though she’s had a runny nose and cough, she hasn’t had the flu yet and neither have her friends.

She hasn’t noticed any higher rate of flu since living in the dorms, either, since she remembers similar problems with illness from her pre-college years.

“High school is another sort of plague area, too,” Weaver said, adding that university students may even have fewer infections. “People are cleaner in the dorms than in high school; they wash their hands more often.”

Flu season generally starts in late December and can end as late as May, but locally it often ends in March. Allen said that it’s difficult to predict whether this season will continue to be slow or whether the peak is still to come, so students should take precautions against getting sick.

Tonie Miyamoto, the director of communication for CSU’s Housing and Dining Services, said residence halls offer services that can help prevent students from getting sick.

“In the residence halls we encourage students to wash their hands frequently, we offer hand sanitizing stations at all dining centers, and we provide sick trays for students who are ill so they can eat in their rooms rather than the dining centers to help prevent the spread of illness,” Miyamoto said.

For more details on how to stay healthy during flu season and what to do if infected, students should visit the CSU Health Networks flu resource webpage at health.colostate.edu/pages/resources/flu-prevention.aspx.

Collegian writer Elisabeth Willner can be reached at news@collegian.com.

Avoid the Flu
Although fewer students have had the flu so far, the season could still pick up as it comes to a close in March. The recommends the following to avoid getting sick:
Practice good hand hygiene: wash hands after coughing or sneezing
Practice respiratory etiquette: cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze
Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth
Keep your living space clean. Flu can live on surfaces for up to 8 hours
Engage in immune boosting strategies: get enough sleep, manage stress, stay physically active and eat a healthy diet
Decide whether you should be vaccinated. Flu vaccines are available at Hartshorn.

For more information on seasonal flu, including vaccination information, call the CSU Health Network at 970-491-7121.

 Posted by at 3:16 pm

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