Flu is lurking; student defenses differ

Rachel Logan, Copy Editor

Patty Ankney, who has worked as a nurse in the Health and Counseling Services office for 26 years, said she usually sees students coming in with flu symptoms right after Christmas.

Ankney said she expects the flu to surge within the next six weeks.

“Everyone’s back with all their germs.”

Ankney said the proximity to others in classrooms or dorms is what helps the flu.

“We push the flu shot, always,” Ankney said, although it isn’t available in her office.

Ankney said the shot is free with many insurance plans and is often available  at Walmart, Giant Eagle or any pharmacy.

“It usually helps a little bit. You want to protect yourself in any way you can.”

Flu shots were available for free at an October  campus event for students with UPMC insurance.

Junior Brianna Facciani said she’s never had a flu shot, but she’s also never had the flu.

“Since I’ve never had it, what’s the point in getting the shot? It’s probably naïve, but that’s why.” 

She said she builds her immune system in other ways, including taking zinc vitamins.

“My dad gets (a shot) every fall before flu season starts. You can get them at Rite-Aid,” she said. 

Senior Eric Jennings said he got a flus shot last season.

“I get  if I can convince myself to call my doctor and get it from him. He gives the best shots because he uses the smallest needles.”

Jennings said that, if he got the flu, he would not come to school.

Senior Sam Miller said he usually gets the flu shot, but he hasn’t this season.

“When I get the flu shot, it’s because I have time.”

Miller said he’s not worried about getting sick.

Ankney said she had the flu a few years  ago, and she said she remembers not being able to function.

“It’s not like a cold. It hits like a brick wall,” she said, whereas cold symptoms build up slowly.

“I can see how it kills people.“

Ankney said to watch for raging headaches, a fever and exhaustion. Body aches and chills are also common.

She recommends rest, fluids and isolation in the case of the flu—Gatorade, toast and broth help. Tylenol and Ibuprofen also help.

Ankney said that no one can know for sure if someone has the flu unless they have a flu swab done at a clinic. 

She said the Med Express and Medwell urgent care centers on Scalp Avenue are available for walk-in appointments.

“Even a doctor needs to see the swabs. Ask for swabbing.”

Once it’s confirmed, she said she suggests students call her with a doctor’s note to be excused from classes. 

She said getting Tamiflu, an antiviral prescription drug, can shorten symptoms by a day or two.

Ankney said the flu is worse than a cold.

“If you’re diagnosed, get Tamiflu—when you get back, call me, then go home for three to five days.

“You need (tender loving care) from a family member,” Ankney said. “You don’t need to be spreading it around.”

A Jan. 11 campuswide email from Student Affairs  Vice President Chris Stumpf said that the flu is most contagious in its first four days.