Flu hits with deadly force; even young and healthy aren’t safe

Faith Gates, News Editor

It’s that time of year: wintertime, football time, but most of all it’s flu season.

The flu has spread across the Bay Area, killing 29 people so far, including in Sonoma County.
“This is an interesting flu season,” said Director of Student Health Services Susan Quinn. “It will be a little more challenging.”

The H1N1 flu is the predominant strain circulating nationally this flu season. In addition to the normal high-risk groups like older adults, pregnant women, children and people with chronic diseases, it can cause serious complications for young, healthy adults, as in the case of 23-year-old Matthew Walker who died in Sonoma County.

“We all need to work together to prevent the spread of this illness,” Quinn said. It is important to wash your hands often, cover your cough and keep your hangs away from your face. “These are all behavioral choices people can make that can make a big difference.”

Flu shots are the most important preventative measure. They should be done every year because each vaccine is equipped with the dominant flu for that season.

“Flu shots take two weeks to provide full protection, and the flu season will last a few more months, so it is not too late to become vaccinated,” Quinn said. The immunity of the shots work the best the first three to four months and then gradually decline.

SRJC students Ian Strieter and Lisa Montes said they are worried about the flu but haven’t gotten a flu shot yet. “I haven’t really had the time to look into it or where to get one,” Strieter said.

A limited amount of flu shots are available at the Student Health Services for enrolled students for $10. Costco also has $15 drop-in flu shots for everyone, member or not. If you have health insurance, you can get these from your healthcare provider for free. If you don’t have health insurance, community clinics in Sonoma County can provide flu shots and help you enroll in a health insurance plan through the Affordable Care Act.

Symptoms of the flu include fever above 100 degrees Fahrenheit for five to seven days, cough, sore throat, headache, muscle aches or fatigue, runny or stuffy nose, chills and possibly nausea and diarrhea.
“People who are sick need to stay home. It’s not just about taking care of themselves to prevent complications, it’s also about not infecting everyone else too,” Quinn said.

It is not just the students’ responsibility to not come to class; it is teachers’ responsibility to let students stay home without penalty.

“Message to the faculty: be flexible with students in providing alternative ways they can meet their course requirements when they are sick with an influenza-like illness. Help students feel comfortable coming to you with this information,” Quinn said. “We want to encourage an environment at the college where students feel comfortable talking with their teachers letting them know when they are sick with a communicable disease.”

Our default policy as teachers should be to accommodate those who feel the need to stay home due to illness,” said SRJC Speech and Debate teacher Joseph Corcoran. “Students are allowed to miss a certain number of days without penalty, so they should save those, not for the beach, but for when they’re really sick.”

“I believe it’s also incumbent upon students to attend classes and turn in assignments on time, so that when they are sick they may stay home to protect the rest of us,” Corcoran said.

“If they contact me prior to an assignment being due or prior to missing class, I always work with them. However, if they’ve been a flake all semester, my default penalty is half credit, and if absolutely unreliable up to that point in the semester they may receive a zero.”

Student Health Services is giving away free flu prevention packets including tissues, hand sanitizer, a thermometer and information. Student Health Services is located in the Race Building next to Emeritus Hall.

“We all need to be working together to prevent the spread of the illness,” Quinn said.