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As Flu Season Nears its Peak, MU Physician Offers Tips to Keep College Students Healthy Upon Their Return to School

January 22nd, 2014

Story Contact: Jesslyn Chew, ChewJ@missouri.edu

The views and opinions expressed in this “for expert comment” release are based on research and/or opinions of the researcher(s) and/or faculty member(s) and do not reflect the University’s official stance.

by Sarah Clinton

COLUMBIA, Mo. – Although the peak of flu season is here, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report that fewer than half of Americans have been vaccinated so far this season. In addition to CDC advice that vaccinations are the best way to prevent the spread of the influenza virus, a University of Missouri student health expert says students and university officials can take measures to avoid catching and spreading the flu as students return to campus for the new semester.

“Although college students generally are very healthy, living in close proximity to one another and attending large classes gives them more exposure to contagious viruses, such as the flu,” said Susan Even, a physician and the Student Health Center’s executive director. “Keeping students healthy is a top priority during flu season and throughout the school year.”

To prevent flu infections on an individual level, Even recommends that students:

  • Practice good hygiene and avoid exposure to those who exhibit flu-like symptoms.
  • Cough or sneeze into tissues or sleeves, rather than hands.
  • Wash hands often with soap and water, especially after coughing or sneezing.
  • Avoid hand-to-eye, -nose or -mouth contact, which is how germs are spread.
  • Stay home from work or school if experiencing flu-like symptoms, and limit contact with others to prevent spreading the virus.

Even says that officials at colleges and universities can work to prevent flu cases on an institutional level by proactively educating students, faculty and staff on ways to avoid catching the virus and giving it to others. To further minimize the risk of widespread flu infections, she recommends that college and university officials:

  • Post informational materials listing common flu symptoms and proper care tips in residence halls and campus buildings.
  • Implement university-wide initiatives to reduce the spread of illness, such as placing pumps of alcohol-based hand sanitizer in convenient locations throughout campus.
  • Consider hosting campus-wide events during which students, faculty and staff can obtain vaccinations for free or at a reduced cost.

For more information about flu prevention and treatment, visit the designated flu section of the MU Student Health Center’s website at http://bit.ly/NoFluMizzou, or visit http://www.muhealth.org/body.cfm?id=103&action=detail&ref=407.

Even currently serves as the chair of the Vaccine Preventable Disease Advisory Committee for the American College Health Association. She also is the liaison for the ACHA to the Advisory Council for Immunization Practices, which is an organization under the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).

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