Faculty aims to prevent flu epidemic through education

Rebekah Alvey

College campuses can be hotbeds for illness. With everyone living together and constantly moving, a single virus can soon become a major issue.

Flu outbreaks have been higher this season throughout the Bowling Green community with several students becoming infected. So far there have been over 100 cases, Bryan Kuster, chief of student affairs,  said.

Symptoms include fever, cough, sore throat, fatigue, body and joint soreness and headache, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It’s separate from the common cold in that it leaves you feeling drained, Assistant Director of Health Education Kathryn Steward said.

Steward said the amount of outbreaks is much higher than previous years; it has become so bad in some situations that high schools in Bowling Green have cancelled classes.

Steward said to keep students in class, prevention and awareness has become a major focus.  The Health Education Department worked with Housing and Residential Life to send out emails and reach students through social media with a goal to educate students and faculty on the virus and make sure people were less likely to become infected.

“We want to make sure students have good habits while sick,” Kuster said.

In the past there have been single strands of the flu virus present on campus, but this year types A and B are present as well as a few cases of strep throat, Steward said.

The flu is a form of a virus which means it can spread person to person faster.

“Even a cough can spread the flu,” Steward said.

Students are recommended to wear face masks if they test positive for the flu and are recommended to rest, possibly missing class. Faculty was included in an email about the outbreaks.

Kuster said faculty members were asked to be understanding of increased student absence and students were encouraged to know their professor’s attendance policy.

“I would imagine class attendance has been affected by the outbreaks,” Steward said.

HRL and the Health Education department have  emphasized the flu shot in prevention. Steward said a lot of people have a false perception that the shot will make them sick.

Their efforts to educate students have extended to ensuring that this is not true. Steward said people who received the vaccine but did contract the flu displayed less severe symptoms.

Steward recommends not getting the shot if patients  are already displaying symptoms or feeling sick.

On campus, flu shots are free with insurance or 27 dollars without and are available through March.

If students are exposed to the virus through an infected person, they can take antiviral drugs to fight contracting the flu. The medicine typically works best after two or three days of being exposed.

“Just be careful and try to prevent spreading the virus,” Steward said.

Reporter Rebekah Alvey can be reached at 270-745-6011 and [email protected]