Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Vol. CLIV, Issue 5
Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Flu shots, caution urged after first influenza case

Flu ShotInfluenza’s arrival on the Whitman campus has been relatively quiet, with only one documented case so far on campus and one other case at Walla Walla College just a few days earlier.

Though the college is not legally required to report diagnosed cases of influenza, the Health Center does so out of courtesy for others so that when cases are reported elsewhere in Walla Walla, it indicates that influenza has arrived.

“Usually, the first cases we see are from mid to late January. The peak is mid to late February, and there are intermittent cases into April and May,” said Ellen Collette, director of the Health Center.

Despite similar symptoms, there is one big difference between the common cold and influenza.

“Influenza is a cold on steroids. Particularly in elderly people, influenza causes a significant number of deaths in the US. Fortunately, college students are very healthy to begin with,” said Collette.

Symptoms include the sudden onset of a fever of at least 102 or 103 degrees, body aches, a dry cough and bad headaches.

“People get really sick, and you’re so sick that for the next week, you are completely toasted,” said Collette.

The first documented case of influenza was on Friday, Jan. 30. The student in question didn’t have a flu shot.

“He said it was the worst he had ever felt in his life,” said Collette. “Bad part is,  someone with the flu is contagious from the day before their symptoms begin until  4  to 5 days after the onset of their symptoms.”  

Influenza is entirely preventable, with flu shots. The Health Center starts administering them around October. This year they were $25.

“It takes about two weeks for your body to build up antibodies, but people start losing interest about now because the flu has already arrived,” said Collette.

“It’s so avoidable, but young people don’t get flu shots because they’ve never had the flu and don’t realize how sick they can get,” said Collette.

It usually takes about four to five days to recover fully from symptoms of influenza.

“I sent an email out to Residence Life ask them to tell all the RAs and RDs that influenza is here, and to encourage people to wash their hands,” said Collette.

There are also kits available at the Health Center which contain masks, Kleenex, and sanitizing hand wipes. The masks are especially helpful to wear when coughing, so as not to pass germs on to other people.

“I just tell people that during flu season, wash your hands before you touch your eyes, nose or your mouth or eat,” said Collette. “There are so many common surfaces like table tops, keyboards and doorknobs, that washing your hands is the cheapest insurance against illness.”

Getting the flu shot however, is definitely the best way to prevent influenza.

“If someone said that for 25 dollars you would not have to feel this bad, I think most people would be more than happy to pay 25 dollars,” said Collette.

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