Students Urged to Take Precautions With Flu Season in Full Swing

UT Dallas students are returning to campus this week during what some health experts are calling the worst flu season in a decade.

generic flu virusSome of the highest levels of flu infection in the country have been reported in Texas. This year’s strain, called H3N2, has often been linked to serious disease.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the flu season started earlier and has been more widespread than usual this year. Some of the highest levels of cases in the country have been reported in Texas and the South Central region.

Students returning to densely populated living areas on campus are encouraged to take extra precautions to avoid the flu.

“Any time you have groups of people in confined areas, like on a college campus, you need to be extra careful,” said Lea Aubrey, director of the Student Health Center at UT Dallas. “Our goal is to keep students healthy so that they can stay on track and be academically successful.”

It’s not too late to get a flu shot, as cases of influenza typically peak in February, according to the CDC. It can take up to two weeks for antibodies to provide protection after vaccination, so the sooner you get your flu shot, the better.

The UT Dallas Student Health Center is currently out of the vaccine after providing 1,500 flu shots last fall, but the vaccine is widely available at area doctors’ offices and pharmacies. Near campus, the vaccine was available at CVS, Walgreen’s, Target and Tom Thumb pharmacies.

The flu is a contagious respiratory disease that is caused by a virus. It is transmitted when a sick person sneezes or coughs and the virus is expelled into the air. It can also be transmitted by hand contact. The virus can live for hours on doorknobs, phones and other surfaces.

Symptoms can last five to seven days and often include a fever, headache, cough, weakness, aching muscles, sneezing and runny nose. Bed rest, self-isolation and lots of fluids can help promote recovery and control transmission.

Washing hands

Safeguards Can Help Stop Flu's Spread

The following precautions have been issued from the CDC to help prevent the spread of flu:

Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it.
Wash your hands often with soap and water. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub.
Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth. Germs spread this way.
Try to avoid close contact with sick people.
If you are sick with flu-like illness, CDC recommends that you stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone except to get medical care or for other necessities.
While sick, limit contact with others as much as possible to keep from infecting them.

The Student Health Center has diagnosed seven students with the flu since early December. Students who are diagnosed through a mouth swab are sent home with a mask, Clorox wipes, a prescription for the flu treatment medicine Tamiflu and information on how to treat symptoms.

UT Dallas also is taking extra steps to help protect the campus environment, including providing more hand sanitizers in food service areas. All tables and chairs in dining areas are cleaned with a sanitizer.

The Student Wellness Center is providing hand sanitizers and CDC brochures on the flu in each suite of the Residence Halls and in offices of on-campus apartment complexes.

“These are additional resources to help students be proactive in quickly removing germs,” said Amanda Smith, director of the Student Wellness Center.

Fliers that describe the symptoms of the flu are also being hung in bathroom stalls in the Student Union and Residence Halls.

“Students need to know that they cannot be in class if they have the flu. They need to take responsibility to isolate themselves until they have not had a fever for 24 hours without the use of fever-reducing medications,” said Sue Sherbet, assistant vice president for Student Affairs.

This year’s strain, called H3N2, is often linked to more serious disease compared to other flu varieties. But the good news is that it matches up well with the vaccine being distributed in the U.S. About 112 million people in the U.S. have already been vaccinated, according to the CDC.

Media Contact: The Office of Media Relations, UT Dallas, (972) 883-2155, [email protected].