Owls Felled By Flu

September 4, 2009

At this time of year, it’s usually just too much college.

 But more than 50 Rice University students already have been sickened by the flu, as university students across the country battle an early influenza season.

Student Health Services at Rice has seen 53 students with “flu-like” symptoms, and 23 who took a rapid test have the flu. A rapid test cannot determine the strain of flu virus.

“It’s a problem at all universities. Flu season came early this year,” said Rice University spokesman B.J. Almond.

Dr. Mark Jenkins, director of Rice Student Health Services, said the majority of Rice students who have had the flu are experiencing “mild” cases and recuperating within a few days.

The Centers for Disease Control reported Friday that nationwide there were “higher levels of influenza-like illness than is normal” for this time of year.

But, other area colleges are not reporting increased flu activity.

University of St. Thomas spokeswoman Sandra Soliz said that there have not been any reported cases of flu at the central Houston campus.

University of Houston spokesman Richard Bonnin said there doesn’t appear to be any sign of an early flu season at that university.

“With the students just having come back to campus, the last information I have from the Student Health Center was there have been no (flu) cases go through their office,” Bonnin said. “There could have been students getting private treatment, but we haven’t heard of any cases.”

The 2009 novel H1N1 influenza virus, also called swine flu, is the dominant flu virus in circulation around the world, according to theCDC.  H1N1 is circulating with seasonal flu viruses, and it appears to have fast-forwarded flu season, which usually doesn’t begin until later in the fall.

Because flu spreads in coughs and sneezes, sick students are being asked to avoid contact with others – except to seek medical care or medication — until their fever subsides without medication. At Rice, students have been advised to stay in their rooms and have somebody bring them their food. And, they have told roommates to stay “at least six feet away” from each other and to wash their hands frequently.

According to the Rice web-site, the university has scheduled a series of flu shot clinics in the next few weeks. The swine flu (or H1N1 virus) vaccine won’t be available until mid-October, but students seasonal flu shots on September 10, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., at the Student Health Center.  The cost is $13. To schedule an appointment, call 713-348-4966.

Free seasonal flu shots for benefits-eligible faculty, staff and retirees will be offered:

  • Oct. 12, 8 a.m.-3 p.m., Kelley Lounge of the Rice Memorial Center/Ley Student Center
  • Oct. 16, 8 a.m.-3 p.m., FE&P Training Room
  • Oct. 23, 8 a.m.-noon, Kelley Lounge of the Rice Memorial Center/Ley Student Center
  • Oct. 16, 8 a.m.-3 p.m., FE&P Training Room
  • Oct. 23, 8 a.m.-noon, Kelley Lounge of the Rice Memorial Center/Ley Student Center
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InstantNewsWestu Staff

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