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The influenza epidemic hits Bates

health center picFeeling sick? You are not alone. Many Bates students are fighting the flu this winter. The sound of coughing echoes throughout campus and a multitude of professors can be heard commenting on the large amount of flu-related Dean’s Excuses flooding their inboxes.

Flu outbreaks are far from unusual on college campuses. Close-living conditions and the frequency of shared dining ware are only two of a plethora of factors contributing to the spread of flu throughout residential college communities.

“Flu can be challenging on college campuses because students travel to campus from different areas where there may be different flu strains prevalent and because students are living close together where it is easy to spread the flu to one another through coughing and sneezing or touching things contaminated with the flu virus,” said Cindy Visbaras, Assistant Director and Health Educator of the Health Center.

This year, the early onset of flu contributed to its influence. This phenomenon extends far past the Bates bubble.

“This year has been a particularly bad year for the flu because Maine and the rest of the nation reported widespread flu outbreaks early in the flu season,” said Visbaras.

In an attempt to minimize outbreak, the Health Center hosted two flu shot clinics in October and January. Through these clinics, approximately 300 Bates students received flu shots. The shot equips recipients with immunity two weeks after it is given and lasts through the duration of the flu season.

“Although the CDC [The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] says this year’s flu shot is 62% effective in preventing the flu, people who have had the vaccine and end up getting ill will probably have a milder case due to the increased immunity from the vaccine. Since the flu strains change each year, it is necessary to get a new flu shot each fall,” noted Visbaras.

Despite the Health Center’s best efforts, the flu has still made itself known on Bates’ campus. So far this semester, the Health Center has seen 130 students with the flu. However, the flu seems to be tapering off – at least in the Bates community.

“The number of students ill with the flu peaked in mid-January and we are now noticing a significant decline in the number of new cases of flu. We have seen some complications occur from the flu such as bronchitis and sinusitis but no one has required hospitalization as a result of flu related illness,” said Visbaras.

Therefore, while this year marked an especially bad flu outbreak for Bates the worst seems to be behind us. To make sure the flu continues to decline throughout the community, students are encouraged to visit the Health Center’s website: http://www.bates.edu/health/health-information/avoiding-seasonal-flu/. The Health Center’s website offers information on prevention, symptoms, watching out for friends, and when to seek medical attention for the flu.

In the meantime, stay healthy by washing your hands, covering your mouth when coughing, not sharing food in Commons, and resting if you are experiencing symptoms. Next year consider getting the flu shot – it is as easy as visiting the Health Center during their flu shot clinics.

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