Reported flu cases near 200, officials say

The Student Health Service has diagnosed 172 students with influenza-like symptoms since the beginning of school, University spokeswoman Michelle Sherrard said Wednesday.

That number only reflects students diagnosed by SHS, Sherrard said, and does not include “anyone who went to the hospital, was seen by another health provider or didn’t seek medical attention.”

“Students are being diagnosed based on symptoms,” Sherrard said in an e-mail. “Following [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] guidelines, prescription medication is not being recommended except for those with a previous medical condition or severe illness.”

Last week, the University said SHS had diagnosed 37 students with influenza-like illness in a day and a half.

While the University is not sending flu swabs to the D.C. Department of Health to test whether or not it is the H1N1 strain of the virus, the predominant strain of the flu circulating is the swine flu, Dena Iverson, a spokeswoman for the D.C. Department of Health, said last week.

The University cannot confirm whether or not sick students have swine flu or seasonal flu because public health officials are not currently recommending laboratory tests, said Sarah Baldassaro, assistant vice president for communications.

Sherrard said students who are diagnosed with flu-like symptoms at SHS’s office are given face masks as a way of preventing the spread of illness when students must leave their rooms to “seek medical care or other necessities.”

“The CDC is not recommending face masks for prevention in community and home settings or for workers in non-health care occupational settings. Those who choose to use face masks do so at their own discretion.”

Students experiencing flu-like symptoms – which include fever, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headache, chills and fatigue, according to the CDC – are urged to stay in their rooms until their fever has subsided for at least 24 hours without the use of fever reducing medications.

Last Friday, a Cornell University student died from complications of the swine flu, though SHS Director Isabel Goldenberg said symptoms of the swine flu are generally mild and last only three days.

Junior Mike Kelly said he felt like he would get swine flu when information about the disease first surfaced.

“When it first came out, I said that if anyone was going to swine flu, it would be me,” he said. “My fears have calmed down a little.”

Kelly said he has been taking vitamin C and using hand sanitizer.

Sophomore Madison Shaner said she was sick with the flu and was disappointed with the University’s response.

“They just told me to stay in my room, which I had to [do] from Wednesday to Sunday morning,” Shaner said. “It sucked. My roommates were scared.”

Shaner said the University did not give her prescription drugs and that she had her doctor from home write her a prescription.

Freshman Marty Witkin said due to preexisting medical conditions, he is taking every precaution to ensure he stays healthy.

“I wash my hands all the time and have a big bottle of hand sanitizer in my room,” Witkin said. “I lather up every time I go back [to my room]. I’m the cleanest, most antibacterial person I know. I’m diabetic, so if I get it, I’m screwed.”

Lauren French, Michelle Brown, and Alex Byers contributed to this report.

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