The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus


Campus prepares for oncoming flu season

Although midterms are over and finals are weeks away, students may encounter yet another obstacle this month -àthe flu bug.

Following a nationwide flu vaccine shortage last year, health experts now face the possible spread of avian influenza, also called bird flu. Local officials have taken steps to make sure any strand of the flu will affect as few people as possible.

Dr. Nancy Merrill, co-medical director of SMU’s Memorial Health Center, said her staff ordered 2,500 doses of vaccine for the upcoming flu season. So far, however, less than 500 have arrived.

Though Merrill does not expect the shortage to last, she does recommend that students use the winter break as an opportunity to get immunized.

“We’re strongly encouraging students to get [the flu shot] wherever they can get it,” she said. “It takes about two weeks for immunity, so students should get it when they go home for finals.”

The Health Center is not the only area institution awaiting the arrival of more doses of flu vaccine.

̢۬Dallas County has received about 7,000 of the 20,000 doses it ordered, according to Health and Human Services Public Information Officer Jacqueline Bell. She went on to explain that the first shipment of vaccinations was distributed among people with chronic health conditions, children less than 23 months old and people over the age of 65.

“We’ve seen sporadic cases in Dallas County,” Bell said, “though it is not widespread yet.”

Students living in residence halls or other such close quarters are especially at risk to acquire and transfer the flu, Merrill said.

“Communal living is a disaster waiting to happen,” she said.

Bell added, “It’s very important that college students get checked out because the spread of diseases is more easily done in dorms or communal housing.”

Staff nurse Charlotte Rohr, R.N., wants students to be aware of the warning signs of influenza. She said some common symptoms are a temperature of over 101 degrees Fahrenheit, body aches, a sore throat, congestion and a feeling of fatigue.

Bell offered this advice to students: “When sharing space and living in close confines, make certain to protect yourself as much as you can.”

Simple steps such as frequently washing hands and using the inner elbow to protect sneezes and coughs can often decrease the likelihood of contracting contagious diseases like the flu.

Merrill recommends that students not try to over-exert themselves if feeling ill, a suggestion that can be especially tough to swallow during Greek recruitment week in January.

“Some students go [through recruitment] even when they have a fever,” she said. “Then they can miss three to five days of classes easily.”

According to Bell, Dallas County reports about 3,000 cases of the flu each year, and the “peak months” of December and January are just around the corner.

“Pledge activities can leave students and their immune system feeling run down,” she said, “which makes it easier to contact what is running around.”

Bell and Merrill each recommend early action -àsuch as getting immunized – when trying to prevent the flu.

“The flu shot is the best defense against the flu,” Bell said. “Rather than treating sick people, we want to try to keep well people well.”

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