SRU sees uptick in number of influenza cases

Man that is sick

Slippery Rock University is experiencing increased flu cases during the first two weeks of the spring semester, reflecting statewide reports of the heaviest flu season in nearly a decade.

Feb. 2, 2018

SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. - One of the worst influenza seasons in years is sweeping the country according to the Pennsylvania Department of Health. Count Slippery Rock University students among the many now under attack from the flu virus.

As of Feb. 1, not even two weeks into the spring semester, there have been 15 influenza cases reported to the SRU Student Health Center, more than the entire fall 2017 semester.

"It's here and it's bad," said Kristina Benkeser, director of Student Health Services, who notes that there are also students who have the flu or flu-like symptoms who don't visit the SHC. "We are seeing this uptick and the flu is dangerous for the youngest and the oldest among us."

Although the SHC does not perform rapid flu tests, nurses diagnose the flu based on the clinical criteria provided by the PDH, determined by various symptoms such as a 100-degree fever.

Additionally, as the only non-hospital healthcare provider in Butler County that submits nasal swabs of suspected cases to the state's sentinel monitoring project, SRU has confirmed from lab results that there are both the Influenza A and Influenza B strains circulating among its students. According to Benkeser, Influenza A is a faster mutating form of the virus that causes pneumonia and Influenza B is a milder strain.

Benkeser encourages students to get a flu shot, which is provided at no charge, 24-hours a day, seven days a week at the SHC. For those already experiencing flu symptoms they should self-isolate until they are without a fever for at least 24 hours.

"That means staying in your room and away from class or the dining hall or the gym," Benkeser said. "If you have to go out, cover your mouth with a (surgical or antiviral) mask."

While students may be reluctant to miss class and fall behind in their work, their health and the health of the entire campus is more important.

David Wilmes, associate provost for student success, advises students to notify their professors prior to class if they are going to be absent due to illness; check D2L, the University's online learning management system for assignments; contact a classmate to find out what they missed; and let the professor know in-person once they are healthy enough to return to class.

"If a student comes down with the flu or a serious cold, it is much better for them to rest than to overdo it," Wilmes said. "It is better to miss one class than to push yourself and end up being out the whole week. Professors are people too. They understand that students occasionally get ill and may end up missing class."

Thermometers and other self-care supplies such as Sudafed and cough lozenges are available at the SHC without seeing a nurse, but students can be evaluated 24/7, including transportation to a local hospital, if needed.

Students should let a friend know if they are sick, and if conditions worsen, contact the SHC at 724.738.2052. Information about symptoms and coping tips are available here: https://www.sru.edu/news/012418a.

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