By Lacey Nemergut
On January 9, Boston’s Mayor, Thomas Menino, declared a state of emergency due to a widespread and horrific flu outbreak this season, matching only the swine flu outbreak of 2009. At the time of the declaration there had been 700 confirmed cases, a 1000 percent increase from last year’s 70 cases. The virus claimed 18 lives in the state of Massachusetts alone and has affected residents in 49 states.
According to health care professionals, this year’s vaccine is 62 percent effective and is available in both nasal spray and needle form. Typically, the vaccine takes two weeks to be fully effective. The range of flu season can extend from October to May, peaking typically in January or February.
Thus, when students arrived back to school in the Boston area, healthcare professionals in the area were prepared with extra precautions.
“I participated in a conference call early in January and also was called by them a few times after the call to see if we needed anything,” said Geraldine Taylor, Associate Dean for Health and Wellness. “I have a strong relationship with the Department of Public Health, developed over several years. I often was called as a spokesperson for the colleges during the H1N1 outbreak.”
The University prepares for flu season the summer before students return to Bentley. It hosts six flu vaccine clinics, beginning in September before flu season and a final session upon returning from winter break.
“We placed updated flu information on our website and also on parent website, we sent tweets and Facebook postings, we met as a staff and also with res life and university police,” said Taylor, listing the school’s detailed precautions.
In terms of student precautions to avoid contracting the virus, Taylor encourages students to stay alert.
“Number one: get vaccinated! It is not too late! Any protection is better than none!” said Taylor. “Avoid sick people—especially those who have flu symptoms, a fever of over 100, cough and/or sore throat. Don’t share food, drinks, smoking materials or lipstick with others. This will help protect you from other illnesses as well.”
Taylor also encourages college students to decrease there stress levels, maintain a healthy diet and get at least eight hours of sleep to ensure that their immune systems operate at maximum effectiveness.
If you come down with the flu, the University encourages you to take proper care and avoid contact with others.
“If you have flu-like symptoms, stay out of work, class and group get-togethers until you are fever free for 24 hours without the use of fever-reducing medicines,” said Taylor. “Seek medical care if your symptoms are severe or you are worried about them and not sure what you have or if you are sick, get better and then get sick again.”
For students concerned about missing schoolwork, Taylor assures the University that she has contacted professors and shared her recommendation of keeping students out of the classroom until their fever has subsided for 24 hours.
“It is up to the student to communicate with the professor as soon as the student is ill and work with the professor to make up any missed work. It is the professor’s decision on how to handle class absences.”
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