Health Services is anticipating an increase in influenza cases over the next few weeks as students return to campus carrying germs from all over the world.
“Usually about a week after students return from winter break we start seeing patients with flu-like symptoms,” said Sandra Hayes, director of health services. However, she added, “I think we’re preparing for the flu in the best way possible."
This past fall over 800 students received the influenza vaccine via the health center, which protects aginst the H3N2, H1N1 and Influenza B strands of the virus. H3N2 is a strand of influenza that was last common in 2003 but is expected to be seen more frequently this flu season.
In accordance with both local and national trends, Bowdoin saw an increase in H3N2 cases prior to break. The exact number of cases is publicly unavailable in order to protect the privacy of affected patients.
Hayes estimated that there were between 20 and 25 influenza cases detected by the health center first semester.
Since the start of this semester, there has been only one confirmed case of flu at Bowdoin. Although, Hayes expects the number of influenza cases to rise as students come into contact with each other during their first week back.
“Living in a small campus like this means you’re touching the same [things] as other students, which puts everyone at a higher risk for influenza,” said Hayes.
The health center encourages students to practice healthy habits like washing their hands and covering their coughs in order to decrease the risk of influenza or any other virus.
Despite precautions being taken, there is no evidence that the flu season this year will be any more severe than in the past.
“It’s too soon to tell whether this year will be different than other years,” said Hayes. “I will say that we did see an increase in flu cases before break as compared to other years.”
In contrast to the rise of influenza first semester, the number of documented STI cases on campus dropped following a spike last spring, although the health center hasn’t specified a reason for the drop.
Whitney Hogan, coordinator of health education, sent an email to first years and several other campus groups last March warning students of the increase in STI diagnoses. This fall the number of diagnoses decreased, although the exact number of cases was still publicly unavailable.
“We still encourage students to get tested,” said Hayes. Students should be tested anywhere from every three months to every year based on their sexual practices.