Lehigh health anticipates flu season, offers vaccine

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The Lehigh Health Center continues to prepare students for the impending flu season by promoting vaccinations, expanding online resources and offering programs aimed at student health and well-being.

“The Health Center has been preparing in the same way for a number of years, at least since the flu pandemic of 2009,” said Dr. Susan C. Kitei, director of student health services. The Health Center strictly follows the regulations set forth by the Centers for Disease Control.

According to Kitei, the first and most important part of staying healthy during the flu season is getting the vaccine.

There have been three flu vaccine clinics on campus this semester, and the next clinic is scheduled for Family Weekend. The clinics are sponsored by the local RiteAid and Lehigh’s Health Advancement and Prevention Office.

Another important resource available to Lehigh students through the Health Center is Tamiflu. Tamiflu, according to Kitei, is approved to treat symptoms of the flu, but must be started within a 48-hour time period of symptom onset. This medicine can prevent serious complications of influenza, such as pneumonia. Tamiflu can shorten the course of illness by one to two days.

The Lehigh University Health Center also works closely with the Pennsylvania Department of Health to monitor the prevalence and spread of the flu on campus.

“We can test a limited number of ill students for free to determine what respiratory viruses, including influenza, may be circulating at Lehigh,” Kitei said.

This statistical information helps the Health Center determine what kind of resources or medication is needed and how much of a supply it should have on hand.

Kitei also said that the Health Center has a close collaboration with the Health Advancement and Prevention Strategies Office, a subset of Student Affairs at Lehigh University. This office sponsors programs such as AlcoholEdu, InSTALLments, the National College Health Assessment (NCHA), Lehigh After Dark and Peer Health Advisers. The InSTALLments are published bimonthly and often include information and advice directly from the Health Center.

The August/September issue’s theme was “Welcome (Back) To Campus,” which included topics such as preventing sexual assault, alcohol consumption at Lehigh and important phone numbers to call in case of an emergency. The October/November issue is titled “Drink Responsibly and Party Positive.” Students can find Lehigh’s InSTALLments in the restroom stalls of both academic and residential buildings.

“We plan to include information on the flu and other common respiratory illnesses in the December/January issue of the InSTALLment,” said Kitei. “This will review the importance of hand hygiene and covering coughs and sneezes appropriately.”

Students on campus are well aware of the upcoming flu season and have already started practicing healthy habits. However, there isn’t much sense of worrying about the imminent contagion.

“I have a lot of hand sanitizer, and I got a flu shot,” Sheron Teng, ’15, said. “That’s about it.”

Students have responded very positively to the on-campus flu vaccine clinics. They agree that the convenience of being able to go in between classes makes getting vaccinated an easy choice.

“I’m a germaphobe,” Bhavishya Devireddy, ’17, said. “I typically stay away from sick people. I haven’t gotten a flu shot yet, but I plan on getting one at the next on-campus clinic.”

The online accessibility of the Health Center’s resources is another big selling point. Students find that making appointments is much more convenient using the Online Student Health portal.

“They didn’t have the online aspect when I was a freshman or sophomore,” Teng said. “But now that they do, I find it super helpful.”

In addition to publishing important tips on the December/January issue of the InSTALLment, the Health Center will be posting information on its website through the Health Advice link, Kitei said.

According to Kitei, if a student does become ill, he or she should not attend classes and should take over-the-counter medication to relieve symptoms, drink plenty of clear fluids and get a sufficient amount of rest.

“As always, we do our best to see ill students who wish to be seen in our office as quickly as possible,” Kitei said.

For more information on the flu, visit www.cdc.gov/flu or visit the Health Center’s website.

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