Influenza virus infects Washburn

Erin Wiltz

The influenza virus has reached Washburn.

The first cases have been identified in the resident halls and in the law school. Iris Gonzalez, director of student health services, sent a mass alert in an e-mail to warn students that the virus is going around and to be careful. She also instructs the proper ways students should care for themselves if they have contracted the influenza virus.

At first, doctors look at if antiviral drugs can treat the case of influenza. What people call the “flu” is actually viral gastroenteritis, where there is extreme vomiting and diarrhea. The influenza virus comes with respiratory problems such as a sore throat. A person with influenza might feel a little bit off and think he or she is coming down with something and have a sore throat then all of a sudden one might feel chills, headaches, body aches, fever and coughing. Sometimes there is vomiting and diarrhea with influenza, but not in most cases.

Gonzalez said in the residence halls, if a student’s roommate is sick it is best to avoid getting sick, yet help them as much as possible. Be sure to dispose of used and dirty tissues. Also bring the aforementioned roommate their meals and medicine to help maintain a quarantine-like environment.

“Of course the roommate needs care but if you haven’t received the flu shot you are potentially putting yourself at risk,” said Gonzalez.

Gastroenteritis hit Washburn before the influenza virus. With gastroenteritis, the only treatment is to stay hydrated and wait it out.

“It’s hard because when someone had influenza and came in promptly I could just write them a prescription for Tamiflu and told them that they would start feeling better within 12 to 24 hours,” said Gonzalez, who said that unfortunately a strain of influenza which is spreading this year is more resistant to the treatment.

There is a backup drug called Remantadine, which is also available in a generic form. Influenza is highly contagious and the virus is very efficient, and can set in within two days of infection. The tricky thing about influenza is that a person becomes contagious before symptoms set in, and can make them unknowingly expose others to the virus.

“We encourage people to get flu shots because once you are sick you are down for a week and a week of missed class is bad at this point in the semester,” said Gonzalez.

Gonzalez added that she would be glad to write notes for students whose teachers are strict on attendance because she doesn’t want students to attend class when sick and infect other students.

Many people complain that the flu shot hurts and results in flu-like symptom, but they would feel much worse if they had not gotten the flu shot and instead contracted the virus. Young people, the elderly and those with diabetes and other illnesses are at high risk for contraction of the virus.

Gonzalez said there are numerous ways for students to keep themselves healthy and avoid the virus. Eat more fruits and vegetables because these help the immune system. Also, getting enough sleep and staying hydrated plays a key role. Finally, hand washing is essential during the flu season.

For people who are wary of needles, there is Flumist, an alternative form of administering the traditional flu shot. Rather than a traditional injection, it delivers the treatment in the form of a nasal spray. While it is more expensive, it also is more effective in fighting the influenza virus. Flumist is only prescribed for those between the ages of five and 49 years old.