UB prepares for peak in flu season

Michael Hall reports normal number of flu cases

Pressure in his head. Body aches. Congestion. The trio of flu-like symptoms convinced Chris LaGatta to make an appointment at Michael Hall, where he was waiting to be seen Tuesday afternoon.

He had yet to be diagnosed, but LaGatta, a junior psychology major, said he thinks he caught the bug from his roommates while living in Hadley Village.

LaGatta is one of the many UB students who have headed for Michael Hall with flu-like symptoms since the start of the semester.

Susan Snyder, director of the UB Student Health Services, said there has been a "modest number" of flu cases on campus, but could not disclose an exact number. Student Health Services has vaccinated over 1,000 students against the flu since September, and they have roughly 300 doses of flu vaccinations left to administer to registered UB students, Paula Taton, the clinic manager of Student Health Services, said. 

Fifty-three flu-related pediatric deaths have been reported nationwide by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention so far this flu season, which is expected to be one of the worst flu seasons of the decade.

If it follows the typical cycle, cases of the flu will peak at UB within the next few weeks, said Susan Snyder, director of the UB student health services.

“This trend occurs due to the influx of students returning to campus from all over the globe as well as the incubation period of the influenza viruses,” Snyder said.

However, after a relatively quiet flu season in the fall with no positive influenza tests or clinician-diagnosed influenza until after the fall semester, the number of cases of flu diagnosed at the Student Health Services is consistent with previous years, Snyder said.

Still, the number of flu cases in New York State as a whole is increasing, consistent with national reports.

As of Jan. 27, there were 11,683 laboratory-confirmed influenza reports in New York, which was a 50 percent increase over the previous week, according to the New York Department of Health.

Katherine Thompson, a junior chemistry and sociology major, said she got her flu shot a few weeks ago when Wegmans and the Student Health Services sponsored a flu vaccination clinic in the Student Union.

She said the shot was relatively painless and she hasn’t had any signs of illness. Thompson said she believes people should get the vaccination.

“It’s not just about you and the needle going into your arm or maybe the sniffles you get afterwards,” Snyder said. “It’s about getting a worse cold. It’s about protecting everyone else around you.”

Less than 40 percent of college students receive a flu shot, the National Foundation of Infections Disease found in a May 2016 paper, even though doctors suggest the shot severely lowers the chances of contracting an infection. The paper also said an average college student who gets the flu will experience illness for eight days or more.

Student Health Services has not scheduled any flu-shot clinics for the spring semester, but students can still call to make an appointment to get a flu vaccine, as long as supplies last.

Snyder urged students who feel sick with flu-like symptoms to isolate from others until they are fever-free for at least 24-hours, without the use of fever-reducing medicines, to prevent the spread of influenza. She also said students can prevent the spread of the flu by covering their noses and mouths with tissues when coughing or sneezing, washing their hands often and avoiding touching their eyes, noses or mouths.

Haruka Kosugi is a news editor and can be reached at haruka.kosugi@ubspectrum.com and @KosugiSpec on Twitter