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The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

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Want your voice to be heard? Submit a letter to the editor, send us an op-ed pitch or check out our open positions for the chance to be published by the Daily Utah Chronicle.
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Flu hits U students

By Carlos Mayorga

A rise in influenza cases nationwide is hitting the U as officials at Student Health Service are reporting the number of students with flu-like symptoms has dramatically increased since the beginning of the month.

From the end of November until the beginning of February, the clinic treated one student with flu-like symptoms, said Liz Miller, nurse manager at Student Health Service. Since the start of the month, the clinic has seen 13 students with symptoms that include temperatures of up to 104 degrees, aches and pains, extreme fatigue, sore throat, muscle aches and breathing problems.

“Influenza is a serious bug,” Miller said. “It is pretty contagious. We have seen quite a number of students with flu-like symptoms recently.”

Although reports of influenza in the United States were relatively low until early December, the number has risen significantly since the start of 2008. Since the beginning of February, 44 states have reported widespread influenza activity, according to reports from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Influenza Virus A was the predominant strain through mid-January, but the recent rise in flu cases might be because of the emergence of sub-typed influenza A viruses that are more immune to flu shots.

Miller said that for manufacturers to prepare enough vaccinations, scientists must decide a year in advance which strains of influenza are most likely to show up the following year. Although vaccinations are updated each year to fight off newer strains, some years the prediction is off target and vaccinations aren’t as effective.

“The vaccine isn’t covering some of the strains as well as in past years,” Miller said. “Strains of the viruses are always changing. We can develop a vaccine, but if one or two viruses change, the vaccine has to be constantly updated.”

The effectiveness of the vaccine depends on how well it matches up to the virus in circulation, but the vaccine can provide some protection.

Student Health Service recently set up a table in the Union and encouraged students to get vaccinated. Three students got the shot. The flu season can extend as late as May, so students should get vaccinated, Miller said.

Some students who have become ill with flu-like symptoms are having a hard time keeping up with their coursework.

Kurt Manwaring, a senior in sociology, got a flu shot in late October and was shocked when he learned in January that he had the flu.

Manwaring missed two weeks of work from fatigue, sore throat and nausea before a doctor told him he had a “weird” strain of the flu and gave him medicine when the illness didn’t go away weeks later.

The medicine helped with the symptoms, but after using the medicine for seven days, the symptoms came back as strong as before.

“I’ve never experienced anything quite like this,” Manwaring said. “I’ve had illnesses that last two weeks tops, but we’re at seven weeks now.”

Manwaring said his instructors have been understanding, but he had to miss most of his classes last week. One of his instructors cancelled classes twice last week because of the illness.

“I haven’t been able to catch up and I feel like I’m getting further and further behind,” Manwaring said. “I have enough going on. I don’t need this.”

Aleks Eker, a junior in political science, started having flu-like symptoms in early January. The symptoms eventually went away except for the cough. Last week, doctors diagnosed her with whooping cough and told her the illness could last months.

“It’s really hard,” Eker said. “I’m constantly exhausted. I was told to sleep a lot, but that’s not feasible with a full course load and work.”

Miller said that getting vaccinated is a great idea for students who live in dormitories or who are always around a lot of people. Reducing the risk of getting the flu can protect students from missing classes and from making a trip to the doctor.

“I live in the dorms and I think that has a lot to do with getting sick,” Eker said. “I have friends with Type A flu and whooping cough.”

Eker said that her instructors have also been sympathetic about her situation and have told her to keep up on the assigned readings.

“I missed about a week of school so far,” she said. “I have been reading between rest and doctor visits, but still there’s no way I can keep up.”

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