Monday, May 20, 2024

Recent influenza outbreak hits PSUC hard

Although it is lurking all-year-round, people are most likely to contract the flu between October and May, and Plattsburgh State students are no different.

PSUC Medical Office Assistant Monica Lattrell said on Feb. 13 that between students, faculty and staff, 700 people had been vaccinated on campus. Lattrell said the number consisted of mostly students.

Kathleen Camelo, director of the PSUC Student Health and Counseling Center, said that although she didn’t have an exact daily number of students coming in with the flu, the center often sees multiple cases every day.

Justin Seymour, a PSUC physics and adolescent education major, said he “could definitely tell he was sick” with the flu on a Tuesday morning, and at the time of the interview that Friday, he did not consider himself well enough to go to class.

“I forced myself to go to classes,” Seymour said. “A lot of my classes are ones you can’t really afford to miss.”

Seymour said that day he felt much better. He said that he occasionally has a stuffy nose, or he might “occasionally have to cough up some phlegm,” but overall, it’s a significant improvement.

“I’m not wavering between freezing, dying of heat or feeling like I’m going to pass out,” he said. “Everyone on campus seems to be sick in some way or another this week and last week.”

Seymour said he used a variety of methods to help get well.

“(I’m) staying in my room as much as I can,” he said. “I got sick, and then my girlfriend got sick taking care of me, so I’ve been trying to do what I can to take care of her. Usually we try to stay (inside) and take sick pills when we’re supposed to.”
Seymour said that, for him, showers help him feel better when he is “feeling hot” or feverish.

“Wash your hands very often,” Seymour said. “Try to avoid people (who) are sick. If they are your friends, and you want to hang out with them, give them some hand sanitizer when they first show up. A hat definitely helps. Keeping warm is definitely a good way to not get sick, especially with it being in the negatives the last few days.”

Students who are well need to take preventative measures to avoid being sick in the future, such as flu vaccinations offered by the Student Health Center or local drugstores.

Camelo said the flu vaccine is free for students at the Student Health Center. It is $20 for faculty and staff.

According to Scientific-American, “the flu is a viral infection caused by the influenza virus, a respiratory virus.”

However, the cold, while it is also a viral infection, is caused by two different viruses and there is a lot of variability in between. That’s why there is no established vaccine or cure for the common cold.

In contrast, “influenza is preventable with vaccination.”

Despite the marvels of modern medicine, Camelo said people die from the flu every year.

According to a Weekly Influenza Surveillance Report from the New York State Department of Health, there was a pediatric death from the flu the week ending Feb. 7, 2015. That brings the total of pediatric deaths up to four this season.

Camelo said this is because the airways of infants and young children are smaller, and their immune systems aren’t as developed as children or adults.

On the other hand, the elderly are also at risk of death from influenza. Camelo said the elderly tend to have more chronic illnesses, and their immune systems are waning.

If people are immune-compromised, for example, with asthma, heart disease or diabetes, that puts them at a higher risk for complications of the flu.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “Overall nearly 60 percent of flu-associated hospitalizations have been among people 65 years and older.”

JoAnn Gleeson-Kreig, a nursing professor at PSUC, said she believes the flu has been worse this year than other years.

“I don’t think they’re finding that the vaccine they put out this year was particularly effective,” she said.

Gleeson-Kreig said that, although getting a flu shot, which takes two weeks to take effect, can be controversial, she does recommend it for assistance with building up a resistance to the influenza virus.

Gleeson-Kreig pointed to the recent measles outbreak as an example of what happens when people don’t encourage vaccination. She also points out that the influenza virus exists in a variety of forms called strains; certain strains can adapt to the existing flu vaccine.

H1N1, also known as Swine Flu, “changed in such a way that humans were susceptible,” Gleeson-Kreig said. Hong Kong Flu, Avian Flu and Spanish Flu are all different strains of the same virus.

In addition to vaccination, Gleeson-Kreig recommends a healthy lifestyle. Good nutritio nal habits and a steady sleep schedule are effective means to fight viruses.

Regarding nutrition, Gleeson-Kreig said adding salad with green peppers and broccoli, which are high in vitamin C, is a good first step. Kale and spinach also have various health benefits.

Gleeson-Kreig said the flu has been a problem throughout history. Flu is dangerous, she said. It can have serious consequences.

“It’s a respiratory problem, and it’s a serious respiratory problem,” she said. “We need to remember, it can be fatal.”

Email Timothy Lyman at

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