Influenza update for Virginia Tech students
Dear Virginia Tech students: As we approach the end of six weeks into the academic year, I wanted to provide an update regarding the flu.
The Schiffert Health Center has been extremely busy. So far, we have seen about 538 cases of influenza-like illness. I expect this number to continue to increase, especially when the regular flu season begins. The majority of these cases are most likely the novel H1N1 flu since seasonal flu activity has not started yet.
Our recommendations to you, consistent with those of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), have been to self-isolate and to not attend class until you are fever-free for 24 hours without fever-reducing medications. Unless you are experiencing severe symptoms or have underlying medical conditions, we may not see you at the health center. We ask that you call with any concerns about symptoms or regarding self-management. I understand that this may create an increased burden for make-up work and exams. However, our goal is to prevent the spread of the flu as much as possible in an environment that is very conducive to contagious illnesses. We are asking for flexibility with attendance and class work from your professors.
The flu/flu-like illness is a clinical diagnosis and the CDC clearly states that all patients do not need to be tested if they have the characteristic symptoms. The Rapid Flu Test shows sensitivity between 10 and 70 percent. That means that 90 percent of those tested can be missed (i.e. negative test). Therefore, a negative test does not offer a sense of comfort.
Specific H1N1 testing is available through private labs, but is very expensive. Let me point out that testing is not simply a swab of the throat. It involves a very deep swab of the nasal passage. Testing does not change management of the flu. However, testing should be considered for those with severe illness and complications. We ask that you not come to the health center or go to the emergency room simply for testing. By doing so, you put other students, patients, and health care staff at risk for illness.
Most people ill with influenza will recover without complications. Treatment is recommended for those at highest risk of influenza-related complications: severe illness, young children, pregnant women, those with chronic illness or immunosuppressive conditions, people younger than 19 years receiving aspirin therapy, and patients presenting with warning signs (difficulty breathing and lower respiratory tract illness). To simply treat everyone would only contribute to resistance and possible mutation of the virus.
Please continue to practice preventative measures: covering your cough, washing your hands, staying away from sick people, and staying home when you are sick. We also recommend getting the seasonal flu vaccine and the H1N1 vaccine when it becomes available.
The first of three flu vaccine clinics for students is Tuesday, Oct. 27. Read the related Virginia Tech News story for more information on the clinics.
Also, please visit the university’s seasonal flu website for helpful information on flu prevention and recent university announcements.
Your cooperation in helping to contain and prevent the spread of the flu is greatly appreciated.
Kanitta Charoensiri, D.O., M.B.A.
Director, Schiffert Health Center