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Flu season hits campus like a train

The sniffles, the coughing, the sneezing and the groans of sickness. The sound is everywhere. Flu season is here, and it came a lot earlier than expected.

This flu season got off to its earliest start since 2003. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), it began in October. Officials saw numbers that were significantly higher in late November and in early December than what is typical for peaks during a normal flu season.

Kathy Benson, health service ddministrator of the Kjos Health Center on campus, said that not many students took advantage of the flu shots available on campus this year.

“I feel like the people here at Concordia have a personal and community responsibility to one another,” Benson said. “We are a community and we need to look out after each other so we don’t get sick.”

Benson said that students were able to receive shots on campus as early as October. She said that the Health Center administered between 450 to 470 flu shots but have since ran out.

“We had a big blitz to vaccinate students and faculty on campus in October,” Benson said. “We worked with the nursing students; and we ran out and had to order more, but since then, we do not have any more.”

According to Benson, the flu season on campus has been significant so far.

Junior Meg Pittelko knows this all too well and said she was crippled by the flu earlier this month.

“It hit me like a train,” Pittelko said. “It started with a sore throat, and the next day, I could barely move. I couldn’t sleep, and I could barely eat.”

She said her flu—including a fever over 100 degrees—lasted for at least seven days, and she can still feel the lingering effects. Benson believes that what happened to Pittelko could have been prevented if she had received a flu shot.

Benson said that some students do not get the shot because they either don’t believe the flu shot will last long enough, or the actual shot will give them the flu. She said that is an absolute myth.

According to the CDC, 135 million doses of the flu vaccine were produced this year. The flu vaccine is about 62 percent effective at catching all the strains of flu that people come across.

A nurse practitioner for the Health Center, Cheryl Ross, said that certain students are more susceptible to the flu than others. Specifically, people with asthma or those with compromised immune systems have a higher chance of getting the flu. Students who get little sleep or eat poorly are also at a higher risk.

“Students need to have a good diet and sleep at least 7 to 9 hours a night,” Ross said. “Because we are at a close proximity with one another, students need to do their best to stay healthy.”

Areas that contain a large amount of flu germs are computer keys, door handles and toilet handles.

Concordia orchestra director and music professor, Foster Beyers, said that he had the flu over winter break and that it took over two weeks for all of the symptoms to go away.

“I had the typical flu: fever, chills and a bad cough,” Beyers said. “I didn’t get out of bed for five days. I was dead to the world.”

Both Beyers and his wife had the flu at the same time, and both went to the doctor to get medication to try and alleviate their symptoms. He said that, if the flu hadn’t hit him over break, he wouldn’t have been able to come to work.

“If I had the flu during the semester, there would be no way I could teach,” Beyers said. “I haven’t been that sick for that long before. It was miserable.”

Like many others that contracted the flu this year, Beyers did not get a flu shot.

He said that he recommends sick students to stay home and away from classes. He takes students at their word, but if he starts to see a discernable pattern of students calling in sick, he will start to get concerned.

Once someone gets the flu there is not much they can do but rest and stay hydrated. Doctors can help by giving medications for the symptoms, but the flu is a virus and will not just go away.

Benson said that, if a student does get the flu, they are urged not to go to class or to extracurricular activities.

Ross added that students should still get the flu shot even during the middle of the season. Students who are traveling overseas are also strongly encouraged to get the flu shot.

“It is never too late to get the flu shot,” Ross said. “You can talk and talk about getting one, but you only are protected once you get one.”

Pittelko has advice for students who happen to get to flu this year:

“Just crawl into your bed,” she said, “and stay there.”

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