Achoo! It’s the flu

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Every year, college students face an enemy potentially more dangerous than exams or tedious group projects: the flu. This time of year sees an influx of flu, earning it the moniker, “flu season.” This is a time that can generally cause a great deal of anxiety for students who do not wish to be affected by a sickness that can greatly hinder their everyday lives, especially when trying stay on top of school. Being out sick for a week or more can have a huge impact on our classes.

Radford University students are fortunate enough to have the support of Student Health Services. The director is 2006 RU graduate, Abby Eckhart. She has served as director for the past three years and has made it a focus of hers to make sure students stay as healthy as possible, especially during periods which tend to see increased cases of a specific illness. The RU Student Health Center strives to educate students so that they can take precautions to avoid catching an airborne illness like the flu, and maintain a better bill of health. Students are encouraged to maintain an active awareness of their health and monitor any symptoms that may be something serious and potentially contagious.

The flu is one of the most serious illnesses prevalent this time of year, but oftentimes students are unable to recognize the symptoms.

“A lot of people think the flu is just nausea and vomiting,” Eckhart says. “But that’s not the case. There is a big difference between the cold and the flu. With the flu you are miserable — you can’t get up.” The flu and the cold, another common illness this time of year, share many similar symptoms: coughing, chest congestion and  runny nose. Students run the risk of mistakenly diagnosing themselves as having a cold when they may, in fact, have the flu.

Eckhart noted the health risks unique to college campuses.

“College students are at a higher risk because of the close proximities of residence halls and classrooms. You’re exposed to viruses and bacteria every day.” Dorm life may be fun and exciting, but it also exposes students to a higher amount of pathogens, increasing their chances of catching the flu or other sickness.  Because of this, students are encouraged to take extra care to help reduce the spread of germs. Regular hand washing is the best preventative measure, but if you’re in a place where you can’t wash your hands, you can use hand sanitizer as a backup.

The best preventative, of course, is to get an annual flu vaccine. Eckhart explains that “the flu shot is not 100 percent effective, but it does decrease the likelihood of getting it.” The Student Health Center administers flu vaccines every fall, right before the time the flu is most rampant. The flu shot costs $12, a small price to pay for decreasing the chance of getting sick.

While they do not accept insurance, there webpage states that the student health fee, included in each year’s tuition, covers the majority of services provided by the RU Health Center. However, some services require a minimal health center charge. If requested, they  will provide you an itemized statement to submit to your insurance carrier. This can allow students to be partially reimbursed for their visit, depending on their insurance plan.

If someone is exhibiting any flu-like symptoms, they are encouraged to keep themselves isolated for three to five days in order to avoid spreading it. Getting plenty of rest, exercising regularly, and making sure to drink plenty of fluids are also important to maintaining a healthy routine. While none of these measures are absolute preventatives, they definitely help decrease the risk for infection.

The Student Health Center has treated 19 confirmed cases of the flu since this Thanksgiving. Eckhart stated that this number has “not been out of the ordinary.” With that said, students should still attempt to follow the basic guidelines for preventing sickness so they do not become number 20 or beyond. Student Health Services are available to all Radford students, and appointments can be made at 540 831-5111. So stay healthy, Radford! If you do get sick, know that the student health center is provided to assist you in any way they can.