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Flu-like illness on the rise among ND students

Madeline Buckley | Friday, September 11, 2009

University Health Services has seen a slight increase in students with an Influenza Like Illness (ILI) and 26 Notre Dame students have had presumptive cases of the H1N1 virus, according to Director Ann Kleva.

Of 1,922 total student visits to Health Services from Aug. 15 to Sept. 9, 414 students presented signs of ILI. Of those students, 144 were tested for influenza A, and 26 of those students tested positive, which is presumptive for the H1N1 virus (commonly referred to as swine flu), according to Kleva.

“We have only seen truly mild cases of influenza,” she said. “The students haven’t needed hospitalization and are recovering in an average of three to four to seven days.”

Students with ILI have to have a fever of at least 100 degrees Fahrenheit, a cough and/or sore throat and an absence of a cause other than influenza. ILI can be seasonal flu, H1N1 or other strains or symptoms of the influenza virus.

“We are seeing a slight increase in flu symptoms and they are showing up earlier,” Kleva said. “But the treatment is exactly the same as in past years and we have not seen serious flu.”

Kleva said the students with ILI were told to self-isolate, get plenty of rest and drink fluids for at least 24 hours after their fever breaks.

She said University Health Services has also seen an increase in the normal walk-in population, but many of these students are not ill with the flu.

“There’s an increase in the number of colds, allergies and upper respiratory illnesses that are unrelated to flu at all,” she said.

Kleva said rectors say students have been taking precautionary measures against contracting the flu.

“What we really see in dorms is that students are truly practicing what we recommended,” she said. “Roommates of sick students are keeping distances and they’re using alcohol-based sanitizers.”

Health Services launched a germ-fighting campaign in August to advise students on correct preventative measures for the flu.

Students are encouraged to stay at least six feet away from a person with flu symptoms and always cough into their sleeves.

Additionally, Health Services will be offering free flu shots, vaccinating against the seasonal influenza virus, from Sept. 22 to Sept. 24. in Stepan Center.

Kleva said Health Services may get a limited amount of the novel H1N1 vaccine later in the fall, and it would be distributed based on the Centers for Disease Control guidelines for risk factors.

“The only firm thing at this point is there will be a small amount coming to Indiana by mid-October,” she said. “However, it will be the highest priority of people receiving this.”