Butler battles flu

Flu season is in its prime, and Butler Health Services wants students to be prepared and aware of symptoms to prevent an on-campus outbreak.
On Jan. 15, a school-wide Butler student announcement was sent out via email with tips on how to stay healthy, prevent the flu and recognize symptoms of the virus.
“I’ve actually been following this for a month or two because we saw some flu cases back in December,” Julie Howerton, director of Health Services at the Health and Recreation Center, said. “We were anticipating what was going on this year by reading and following the media. We’ve been watching for it.”
This season, H3N2, a virus subtype that can cause influenza, is prominent in many influenza cases and was included as a killed virus in this year’s flu shot formulation, Howerton said.
Health Services participated in the Healthy Horizons campaign last semester, which offered free vaccinations on campus. More than 1000 faculty, staff and students were immunized, Howerton said.
As of press time, roughly 40 shots were left over from an extra 100 shots that Howerton ordered last week. Once those shots run out, Howerton said students who want to be immunized would be referred to different local retailers.
It takes about two weeks for immunity to kick in from the shot, Howerton said.
“Even if you had the flu shot, you can still have the flu,” Maria Fletcher, HRC physician, said. “It doesn’t cover all of the possible influenzas that are out there, but I can’t really think of a single person that I’ve seen here that had the shot and got the flu.”
Even though the flu is widespread in all but three states, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Influenza Summary Update, Howerton said she wants students to know the campus is not seeing an epidemic of any kind.
“According to the State Department of Health, on an average flu year you would expect a flu outbreak occurrence rate to be about 3 percent on a college campus,” Howerton said. “Right now, we’re at 1.2 percent according to what we’ve seen.”
Health Services is actively working toward outbreak prevention by adding hand-sanitizing stations in high-traffic areas on campus, posting signs and advertisements to educate students on how to protect themselves, and handing out flu kits, which contain hand sanitizer, Tylenol, thermometers and masks to prevent the spread of the virus.
“If everyone lived in separate, individual places, we wouldn’t be as concerned,” Howerton said. “But because we all live in close proximity, windows are closed and we’re sharing respiratory droplets, it makes it more concerning.”
Howerton said students who experience flu symptoms can go to the HRC for supportive treatment if they don’t want to use home remedies.
If need be, students may be given Tamiflu, an antiviral prescription drug that can prevent the flu and decrease the severity of symptoms.
“I always tell students that the Tamiflu won’t cure you because there isn’t a cure for viruses. They just kind of run their course,” Fletcher said. “(Tamiflu) will shorten the amount of time that you’re sick and hopefully will decrease the virus that you could potentially give to someone else.”
Howerton said this is especially useful for students who may have a roommate with the flu and do not want to get sick.
“We like to start treatment within 48 hours of symptoms,” Howerton said. “The onset of the flu is pretty rapid. Within three to four hours of getting infected, you might start to feel fatigue, hurt all over, have a sore throat, cough and other flu symptoms.”
Fletcher said students can always come to the HRC for treatment and can either make an appointment online or walk in if they want a vaccination.
“The important thing is to isolate, contain and treat your symptoms,” Howerton said. “Our students are very smart.”
Howerton said she is very pleased with the students and how well they are taking care of their health this flu season.
She also said students should not completely let their guard down yet because the flu season can sometimes go through March.
“The message for students is don’t panic,” Howerton said. “We don’t have an epidemic. Be smart, be well.”

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