The start of a semester can be a busy, stressful time for all students. The kickoffs of spring semester are cold temperatures, sleep deprivation and probably some poor diet choices, all of which contribute to a weakened immune system.
The sound of
sniffles and coughing is not only the theme of a normal semester, but also a telltale sign of influenza season.
According to the Centers for Disease Control’s website, “People with flu can spread it to others up to about 6 feet away.”
The flu virus thrives in classroom settings because it is spread through droplets expelled by coughing or sneezing, and transmitted by landing on surfaces. These surfaces, if not treated with disinfectant, can hold the virus for 2-8 hours after exposure, according to the CDC.
Amy Carter, the communicable disease registered nurse for the Weber-Morgan Health Department, said prevention is the key to avoiding an influenza outbreak.
“The best way is to get the flu vaccine every year,” Carter said. “A healthy immune system (is boosted by) good diet, proper hydration, sleeping at least 7-9 hours a night, and working to keep a manageable stress level.”
Carter said having a healthy immune system beforehand can lead to faster recovery time.
The Weber State University homepage advises students to avoid coming to campus with flu-like symptoms. However, the CDC website states flu symptoms may only be present for 1-2 days, while the contagious virus is present in the body for 4-7 days altogether. Symptoms include “fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headache, chills and fatigue.” The CDC recommends vaccination and antiviral treatments to combat the influenza virus.
WSU freshman Brant Dalebout said he has not yet had the flu while in college, as this is only his second semester, but that he would stay home if he had the flu.
“Some kids feel well enough to go to class, and others go no matter what,” Dalebout said. “(I would) ask someone in the class what I missed so I don’t spread it around school.”
WSU senior and accounting major Brittney Mahoney said she keeps hand sanitizer in her bag at all times and uses it frequently to avoid sickness. She e-mails her professors before missing class and said they have always been accommodating and cooperative.
Carter said the flu is currently spreading around Utah.
“(But) the Weber-Morgan activity is still relatively low,” she said. “Every season is different depending on which strains are presenting.”
More information on prevention, treatment and updates on where outbreaks are occurring is available at www.cdc.org/flu. All WSU students can visit the Student Health Center in the Student Services Building if they have flu symptoms or would like to get a flu vaccination.