The flu virus

Sarah Haas

If you have checked your ISU e-mail inbox lately, you know that “Influenza has made its way to the ISU campus.”

According to Dr. Marc Shulman, staff physician at Thielen Student Health Center, the flu has reached most parts of the country.

“We have a widespread outbreak of flu on campus, the state and throughout the entire country. We are all fighting this now,” Shulman said. The cascade of people reporting flu symptoms began around six weeks ago and prompted the mass e-mail.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Student Health Center usually advise getting vaccinated as the best preventative measure for the flu. However, the vaccine has not been as effective this year as it was in previous years.

“The vaccine has been 60 percent effective, which means that 40 percent of the strains are not covered,” Shulman said. He said the vaccine is typically 70 to 90 percent effective.

Shulman cited symptoms specific to the strain of the flu currently traveling through classrooms and dorms.

“If you have a high temperature, a dry cough and body aches, you most likely have the flu,” he said. This strain does not induce diarrhea or vomiting, but it can last five to 10 days.

Shulman said the best remedy is to take an over-the-counter medicine such as Advil or Tylenol to treat symptoms.

“Stay home, try not to go to school and do not go to work, which also applies to the employees here,” he said.

Although a prescription for Tamiflu may sound enticing, Shulman said it is best within 24 hours of the onset of symptoms, and will only shorten the appearance of symptoms by one day. This is why the health center does not give it to everyone.

“It’s just not the best medicine unless the student has other health problems like asthma or diabetes, but otherwise healthy students just need to take care of themselves,” he said.

The CDC Web site said this time period usually sees the highest number of flu cases.

“This is the typical peak,” Shulman said. He recommends basic personal hygiene practices to keep the flu away.

“Cover your mouth, practice good hand washing, do not share utensils or drinks to keep healthy. Try not to share those particles in the respiratory because there is no place to hide at this point,” Shulman said.

The Food and Drug Administration recently announced an overhaul of the vaccine for next year.

“It is really difficult to make the vaccine because you have to pick right now, at this time, the strains to protect against for next year, so next year different strains will be covered,” Shulman said.

How to keep from getting sick:

The single best way to prevent seasonal flu is to get vaccinated, but good health habits – like covering your cough and washing your hands – can often help prevent respiratory illnesses like the flu.

1. Avoid close contact.

Avoid close contact with people who are sick. When you are sick, keep your distance from others to protect them from getting sick.

2. Stay home when you are sick.

If possible, stay home from work, school and errands when you are sick. You will help prevent others from catching your illness.

3. Cover your mouth and nose.

Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing. It may prevent those around you from getting sick.

4. Keep your hands clean.

Washing your hands often will help protect you from germs.

5. Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth.

Germs are often spread when a person touches something that is contaminated with germs and then touches his or her eyes, nose, or mouth.

6. Practice other good health habits.

Get plenty of sleep, be physically active, manage your stress, drink plenty of fluids and eat nutritious food.


Fever (usually high)


Tiredness (can be extreme)


Sore throat

Runny or stuffy nose

Body/muscle aches

Diarrhea and vomiting (more common among children than adults)

It is very difficult to distinguish the flu from other infections on the basis of symptoms alone. A doctor’s exam may be needed to tell whether you have developed the flu or a complication of the flu. There are tests that can determine whether or not you have the flu within the first 2 or 3 days of illness.

How the flu spreads:

The flu usually spreads from person to person in respiratory droplets when people who are infected cough or sneeze. People occasionally may become infected by touching something with influenza virus on it and then touching their mouth, nose or eyes.

Healthy adults may be able to infect others one day before showing symptoms and up to five days after getting sick. Therefore, it is possible to give someone the flu before you know you are sick as well as while you are sick.

What to do when if get sick:

Stay home.

Get lots of rest, drink plenty of liquids and avoid using alcohol and tobacco.

Numerous over-the-counter medications that relieve flu symptoms are available.

Remember that serious illness from the flu is more likely in certain groups of people, including people 65 and older, pregnant women, people with certain chronic medical conditions and young children.

Consult your doctor early on for the best treatment, but also be aware of emergency warning signs that require urgent medical attention.

– All information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention