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The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

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    What You Can Do About the Flu

    The cold, the snow and the flu are all parts of winter that people come to expect and dread.

    The flu, a contagious respiratory illness caused by the influenza viruses, affects five to 20 percent of Americans every year, according to the Center for Disease Control’s website. Characterized by a fever, aches and pains, congestion, coughing and extreme tiredness, a person with the flu is out of commission for days on end. But how does this affect Stony Brook?

    Putting all things into perspective, SBU is not enclosed in a bubble and is populated with 23,000 students and 13,000 faculty/staff. If the same statistics for the nation were applied to the campus population, there would be about 1,800 to 7,200 cases of the flu on campus for the season.

    “I caught this really bad cold recently and it’s really taking a toll, not only on my body but on my school work as well,” Jaymes Blair said in a hoarse rasp. “I have an appointment with the infirmary tomorrow so I can find out if I have the flu; a lot of my friends had it already.”

    This was a typical response from students when asked about how the cold was affecting their health.

    Most students said they recently caught the flu or just recently getting over it and working hard on avoiding severe consequences on their academics. With the number of ill students on campus, it is only natural to assume that the Student Health Service, also known as the infirmary, would be buzzing with activity.

    “We’ve had a few cases of flu, but not an overwhelming number,” director of Student Health Service Dr. Rachel Bergesson said. “We haven’t actually done the actual flu test so we don’t actually know which one it is. We assume it’s the flu because of the symptoms and we assume it’s [strain] A because it’s in the community.”

    Faculty/staff and university medical employees, another major facet of the university, have been affected and/or infected by the virus as well.

    Emergency room personnel said that University hospital employees are offered the flu shot and whether they take it or not is up to them, but whether they catch the flu from the patients can’t be determined. Faculty/staff run the risk of contracting the flu from their students in class, sometimes causing teachers to cancel their classes.

    “If an employee is absent for five or more consecutive day, a doctor’s note is required,” Des Jessop, clerical specialist in human resources, said. “Whether they’re for the flu is hard to determine.”

    In order to prevent a bout with the flu, the CDC gives many suggestions such as washing your hands, covering your nose and mouth when you sneeze/cough and staying away from sick people. The most preventive method is the vaccine, which is available as an injection and a nasal spray. For students interested in taking those measures, the Student Health Service would be more than happy to provide you help.

    “Medical professionals say [the vaccine helps] and though it doesn’t fully prevent it, it does reduce the severity of the flu if you do get it,” said Donna DiDonato, assistant provost for Undergraduate Academic Affairs. “It’s a myth that you get the flu if you get the shot or the nasal-spray vaccine. What you do get sometimes is a mild fever, and some aches and pains, but once that’s over you’ve protected yourself for months. A much better payoff than risk.”

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