SOU sees influx of flu cases

Health officials at Southern Oregon University are ramping up efforts to prevent the spread of flu among students, following a resurgence in reported cases of the H1N1 virus.

The school's Student Health and Wellness Center reports at least 13 cases of Influenza-Like Illness among students since the start off fall term Sept. 29, with the actual number of illnesses likely higher.

Diane Potratz, director of the SOU health center, said the spread of flu across campus is apparent.

"We're certainly seeing an increase in students coming to the center, and an increased number of calls," Potratz said.

The Student Health and Wellness Center has a flu hotline, where university students can keep up to date about the flu's spread, or schedule an appointment at the school's clinic. SOU students who feel sick, or have any questions regarding the flu, are encouraged to call the flu hotline, at 552-7000.

When SOU senior Anna Hidle began showing symptoms of the flu last week, she prepared for the worst. Hidle lives with her sister off campus, in the university's family housing units on Wightman Street. When her sister became sick several weeks ago, she knew her turn could be around the corner.

"There have been lots of confirmed cases in family housing," Hidle said.

She called the flu hotline after it became apparent that she was also becoming ill. She says she is heeding the school's advice by staying at home.

"They said you should only leave the house if you feel like you can't breathe," Hidle said.

Potratz with the SOU health center said flu kits are available for any student who feels sick. Each kit contains anti-fever medications, a facial mask, a thermometer and Vitamin C packets. She said the center also has a limited amount of "flu mist," a nasal spray shown to effectively combat influenza.

Potratz added that, in some cases, students who live on campus can arrange to have meals delivered to their rooms by campus staff, in order to avoid contaminating others.

"Students should not be going to any classes or community areas if they have flu symptoms," she said. "We want them to self-isolate."

No mandatory isolation measures are in place. But Potratz wants students to take the necessary precautions, out of respect for the health of others.

That means Hidle will likely be staying at home for the next few days. She spent Thursday night in the emergency room, receiving treatment for her flu-like symptoms. She has already missed one class and, unless the weekend brings marked improvement, could miss more next week.

But Hidle said her professors have been helpful, taking it upon themselves to show a little flexibility in the midst of so many students battling the flu.

"On the first day of class they told us, 'If you have a fever, please stay home,'" Hidle said. "I would say that they have been very understanding."

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