Campus Feels the Ache of Influenza

It’s the time of year when the Choate community, and the nation, is getting the flu. However, the pattern of flu season is anything but new to the Health Center. Dr. Chris Diamond, Director of the Health Center, explained that, “After winter break, there’s usually a big spike in students sick with the flu because people are coming back from being in all sorts of other communities. That tends to fade through February, and then we often see another big spike into March, which is usually the end of the flu season.” This trend has left the Health Center at full capacity with sick students.
Alix MacKillop ’18 was recently in the Health Center with the flu. She said, “I have been constantly sick for the past four years with miscellaneous colds and stomach bugs. Each year I always get one super bad sickness, such as bronchitis or a two-week-long flu.”

MacKillop continued, “I feel like it would be a lot more successful if instead of having to stay in the Health Center, the nurses would give notes to the teachers that allow students to go back to the comfort of their dorm rooms or homes with medicine to boost the healing process. Even if this means that students must stay in their rooms, I feel like that would make the healing process faster.”

Dr. Diamond acknowledges the Health Center isn’t perfect. “One of the problems we’re having is that we only have 11 beds,” he said. “When we have people who we really don’t want to send back to classes, we look to see if they live close by, so we might ask for their parents to pick them up to allow them to recuperate at home.” Additionally, the Health Center temporarily repurposed the Spears common room and counseling offices to house sick students.

 

Photo by Lauren Canna/The Choate News

Lyon Foster ’18 remembers to sneeze into his arm.

Dr. Diamond noted that the environment students live in contributes to the susceptibility for illness. “Since it is flu season, we are all at greater risk for flu if we aren’t taking care of ourselves.”
Keeley Osborn ’18, another student who had the flu, said, “A lot of us are sleep-deprived, and very stressed. We’re always on the go. Everyone has a lot of extra-curricular and academic activities, adding on to their social lives. I think that definitely contributes to our mental and physical health.” MacKillop added, “Even if I don’t feel a lot better, I get so worried about the work and classes that I am missing that I go out into the school environment again, not fully well, spreading my cold even more, or catching someone else’s germs.”

In keeping with notices to stay healthy, the Health Center asks the community to follow certain procedures to prevent breakouts of viruses and colds from spreading rapidly around campus. Dr. Diamond recommends washing your hands a couple times a day, and, at other times, using hand sanitizer, especially after rubbing your nose or your face. Though the vaccine this year is less effective than usual, students are encouraged to get a flu shot because the vaccine will still lower the risk of flu.

Even with following all of these precautions, the risk of getting the flu remains high. In these instances, the Health Center also follows a set of procedures and guidelines laid out by the Center for Disease Control to aid students with illnesses. Dr. Diamond explained, “There is a medication called Tamiflu that can be used to treat the flu. In general, it only shortens the course of the illness by about a half-day to a day. We often use it here because even if it’s just a day that can make a huge difference to a student.”

He continued, “We always balance the risks and benefits of any medication. Choate has only been seeing about a three-day illness, which is very common for teenagers. However, the flu can also become very severe for teenagers pretty quickly, so it can range from a three-day to a two-week illness.”

Throughout the flu season, Dr. Diamond wants to remind students that they can come to the Health Center for treatment. He said, “The Health Center is open 24 hours a day. If people are feeling sick, feverish, or close to vomiting, we ask people to come here, even if there’s a wait. We really want to be able to take care of you as much as we can.”

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