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As flu season settles in, officials continue to recommend vaccination

Falcon News Service

February 21, 2017

The influenza cycle has returned to the UW-River Falls campus as well as the River Falls community, showing up a bit later than it has in previous years. Flu season typically lasts from October to May.

Across the state, more than 1,200 people had been hospitalized for the flu through Feb. 11, according to the Wisconsin Department of Health Services. The northern half of the state, including Pierce, Polk, St. Croix and other nearby counties, was listed as having high levels of influenza-like illness.

Alice Reilly-Myklebust, director of Student Health and Counseling Services  at UWRF, said she and her staff have worked over the past several weeks to give students, faculty and staff information on how to keep themselves healthy.

“We call around to all the places in town that offer flu shots, to see what they cost at each place,” she said. “We try to get as much information out as possible to people about getting flu shots.”

For current UWRF students, flu shots are covered by Health Services at Vibrant Health Family Clinics in River Falls.

Reilly-Myklebust heavily stresses the importance of flu shots for students, especially due to the close quarters of a classroom.

“The first thing to help prevent influenza outbreaks is to get a flu shot,” she said.

The pharmacies at both Shopko and Walgreens in River Falls offer flu shots to walk-in patients, and will bill health insurance providers.

Other than flu shots, there are a number of other ways to stay healthy.

“I think people discount how helpful washing your hands can be, but that is probably one of the biggest things you can do to help yourself,” Reilly-Myklebust said.

Covering your cough with your elbow rather than your hands is another way to stop the spread of the virus. When using shared work spaces, disinfect the area. Avoid touching your face, eyes and mouth, as that is one of the quickest ways for germs to spread. Lastly, stay home when you are sick. It is best to avoid school and work for at least 24 hours after a fever subsides.

“If you are really sick and running a fever, you need to stay home. You’re contagious and you’ll make other people sick,” said Reilly-Myklebust.

Although a day to rest is certainly helpful, it is easy for students to fall behind after being sick.

Kaleb Greene, a UWRF English major, was out sick with the flu, causing him to miss several classes. Greene found it difficult to catch up.

“The challenge is, when you’re sick like that, you are really out of commission so you can’t sit at home and do homework,” he said. “I wish there was a greater understanding of extending deadlines, but that was not the case.”

Greene experienced vomiting, diarrhea and a high fever. He said he spent all day sleeping or in the bathroom, unable to catch up on classwork from home.

The River Falls Area Hospital, part of Allina Health, has issued restricted visitor guidelines because of the recent flu outbreak. Because young children are more susceptible to the flu, those under the age of 5 are asked not to visit patients. Visitors who are sick should also refrain from seeing patients, and wearing masks is highly encouraged.

Health Services at UWRF offers some helpful resources for students experiencing symptoms. Disposable thermometers are available at each residence hall front desk. Free cold and flu kits are available at the Health Services office. The kit includes a disposable thermometer, tissues, cough drops, hand sanitizing wipes and ibuprofen and acetaminophen tablets, as well as information on staying healthy.

For students living in the residence halls, UWRF Dining Services can arrange isolation meals to be picked up and delivered by a friend or roommate to those who are sick.

The Health Services office is located on the second floor of Hagestad Hall on the UWRF campus.