Ah, flu…SRU offers influenza coping tips


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Slippery Rock University’s Student Health Services encourages students to take precautions they return to campus for the start of the spring semester at the height of flu season, which is considered widespread by the Pennsylvania Department of Health at the start of the new year.

Jan. 24, 2018

SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. - Students are returning to Slippery Rock University for the start of a new semester but they'll arrive on campus in the midst of influenza season. According to the Pennsylvania Department of Health, the influenza surveillance season began Oct. 1 and extends through May 19; however, the peak number of reported cases in each of the last seven flu seasons occurred between the final week of December and the 12th week of the new year.

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Through the end of 2017, there were 6,221 influenza cases reported in Pennsylvania this season, but more than 2,300 occurring in the last week of December alone. Flu activity in the state is currently at its highest level of "widespread," based on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention definition.

With the spring semester officially underway, SRU's Student Health Center is encouraging students to be mindful of the flu and is offering tips to help detect the illness, treat it and prevent it from spreading.

A lot of the advice provided by Kristina Benkeser, director of Student Health Services, sounds like things a mother would say: "get enough sleep," "practice good nutrition," "clean your room" and "keep your hands to yourself."

"Mom wasn't wrong," Benkeser said. "That's good advice. Close, intimate contact is what spreads the flu. You have to really pay attention to your respiratory etiquette, so it's coughing into your sleeve and washing your hands frequently, before and after you eat or use the restroom."

And with college students sharing close living spaces again for the first time in more than a month, Benkeser recommends students wiping down high-touch surfaces in their residence halls and apartments, like door knobs, sinks and electronic devices. Also, avoid sharing personal items that could spread the virus, such as water bottles and lip balm.

According to Benkeser, the most effective way to prevent the flu is to receive an influenza vaccine. SRU students can receive a flu shot at no charge, 24-hours a day, seven days a week, at Student Health Services.

Flu-like symptoms to be wary of include: a fever of 102 degrees or higher, persistent coughing, a sore throat, sinus and ear pressure, chest or stomach pain, trouble breathing and extreme fatigue.

"If you have a fever, you should stay in bed," Benkeser said. "If you're too sick to go to class, you're too sick to go to the gym or the library or the dining hall. You need to self-isolate and protect others. A lot of times it's just resting and allowing your body to fight it off."

Benkeser also recommends drinking plenty of fluids; 64 ounces of water per day is the standard, but a drink with glucose, such as Gatorade, Sprite or any other clear liquid, can also be helpful.

Students should let a friend know if they are sick, and if conditions worsen, contact the Student Health Center at 724.738.2052. The SHC is available 24/7 during the semester for evaluations by a nurse, including transportation to a local hospital, if needed.

MEDIA CONTACT: Justin Zackal | 724.738.4854 | justin.zackal@sru.edu