‘We have 20,000 students in really close proximity’: MTSU sees flu spike during spring semester

Photo and story by Megan Cole / Contributing Writer

Flu season has sent many Middle Tennessee State University students to Health Services these past few weeks, and the flu has had a national infection rate that peaked at 7.7 percent this season, which is the highest it’s been in decades.

According to The New York Times, the current infection rate equals the peak of the 2009 “swine flu” pandemic.

The flu has kept many students from going to class, and professionals suggest staying home in order to prevent the spread of the infection.

Due to the rapid spreading of the flu, Lisa Schrader, the MTSU director of health promotion, explained why it is so important to get a flu shot and keep up with cleanliness.

“The flu is definitely something we’ve seen a spike in since we’ve come back for the spring semester,” Schrader said. “The flu shot is one of the simple prevention steps that anybody can take that (keeps) you from getting the flu. Or, if you happen to get a flu strain anyway, it lessens the symptoms. So, you’re sick for a shorter period of time.”

Simply getting the flu shot reduces the risk of flu illness by between 40 and 60 percent, according to research from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“Health Services does offer the flu shot,” Schrader said. “We started offering them back in September, but they’re still available even now.”

She encourages those who still have not gotten the flu shot to visit the campus clinic, which is located in the Recreation Center. Those who do walk-in appointments can receive a shot that very day as well.

Schrader said that the large number of students on campus could be why many MTSU students have come in contact with the flu virus. Students may decrease their chances of getting the flu by washing their hands regularly after touching public facilities, such as door handles, community pens and desks. If washing hands isn’t possible, students should have Hand Sanitizer on them at all times to utilise after touching potentially infectious surfaces.

“We have 20,000 students in really close proximity,” Schrader said. “So, whether they are living on campus in a residence hall or in one of the college-centered apartment complexes that are nearby or even with their parents, that’s a lot of people interacting with a lot of other people in a confined geographic space. College campuses are notorious for being hotbeds for contagious infections like the flu.”

Schrader suggested that students, who are afraid of getting the flu shot, bring a friendly face to accompany them when coming to Health Services.

“I guarantee that the sting and the entire experience with getting the flu shot is a much shorter duration and much less uncomfortable than if a person were to get the flu,” Schrader said. “It’s so worth gathering up your courage. Bring a friend with you to hold your hand. (Do) whatever you need to do to help you get through that.”

Many downplay the flu virus as just a normal cold, but the flu can also lead to more serious conditions like pneumonia and inflammation of the heart or brain, according to a U.S. Department of Health and Human Services website.

According to the CDC, during past seasons, approximately 80 percent of flu-associated child deaths have occurred in children who were not vaccinated.

Skye Irish, 22, an MTSU senior and political science major, contracted the flu from her friend at a get-together. She said that when she started feeling sick, she immediately went to the clinic and was tested for the flu.

Irish said that she did not get her flu shot this season.

“It just never happened, but it probably would’ve prevented it if I had gotten (a flu shot),” Irish said.

Irish said that the busy college life ended up being what stood between her and the flu shot.

After being sick for nearly a week, Irish started to feel better after taking medicine prescribed by her doctor.

She went in to the MTSU clinic quickly because she is a member of the MTSU Debate Team, and the flu would have prevented her from going to a competition that weekend.

“My entire career relies on me being able to speak, and if I was sick, I couldn’t do that,” Irish said. Irish did not attend classes that week in order to prevent making her classmates sick.

“If you know that you’re going to be in close contact with people, you should go (to the clinic), because it’s not fair for you to start coughing in class and now everybody’s sick,” Irish said.

Irish said that she was going to get the flu shot next year in order to prevent her from contracting the flu again.

To contact Health Services to schedule an appointment, visit here.

To contact News Editor Andrew Wigdor, email newseditor@mtsusidelines.com.

For more news, follow us at www.mtsusidelines.com, on Facebook at MTSU Sidelines and on Twitter at @Sidelines_News.

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