Health Services Influenza Increase

Health Services Warns Campus of Increased Influenza Cases

The current flu season is particularly severe, causing increases in hospitalizations and cases of pneumonia across the United States, according to the Center for Disease Control (CDC). Monmouth University has started to see cases of both Influenza A and B on campus, with approximately two dozen cases reported this year. 

The University’s Health Services released an alert to the student body regarding the observed increase in cases of influenza on campus on Mon., Jan. 22. The e-mail alert was forwarded to employees and the University student body by Mary Anne Nagy, Vice President for Student Life and Leadership Engagement. 

“Periodically, the University will communicate with the campus when [administrators] believe there is information that is important for them to have for their personal safety and well-being,” said Nagy. “People of all ages are getting the flu…there are some folks that are unfortunately losing their lives because the cases of the flu they have are so intense.” 

Monmouth University Health Services is working with New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services (NJDOHSS) to identify, track, and monitor flu strains and activity on campus, according to the e-mail alert. 

Kathy Maloney, Director of Health Services, said that personnel in the Health Center are sending patient nasal swabs to the NJDOHSS for full confirmation regarding influenza strains. So far, she says, 24 cases have been seen on campus. 

“We are also sending samples of patients with influenza-like illness (ILI) who test negative for influenza so those samples can be further tested for other respiratory viruses,” said Maloney, “In fall 2017 we had a rare strain of Adenovirus B-7 that caused severe respiratory symptoms in several students. We are actively working with NJDOHSS to see if that strain is also still circulating.”

Health Services is taking extra precautions during this time to make sure that the spread of diseases is minimized. “The Health Center has asked any patient who comes in with a fever or cough to don a respiratory mask,” said Maloney. “Our healthcare providers are also donning masks when caring for patients.”

The flu is marked by symptoms such as fever, cough, sore throat, and headache, and is spread when airborne via coughing or sneezing. Cases of the flu can, in more extreme cases, cause hospitalizations and pneumonia, according to the alert. 

The health alert, according to Nagy, was a way to let students and staff know to take the proper precautions regarding the current flu epidemic. Campus-wide measures have been taken to best prevent the transmission of the virus. Conversations with Administrative Services and Custodial Services have already taken place, said Nagy. 

Nagy stressed that the main outcomes of the discussions are the implementation of extra cleaning and sanitation procedures, as well as moves to increase awareness about personal hygiene, such as in the fitness center. She also discouraged sharing personal items such as bottles and cigarettes, which are more prominent in the student population than University employees. 

Nagy detailed that she had a productive conversation with Maloney of Health Services to discuss the logistics of bringing in more personnel to the Health Center to supplement those already working. 

“I also want to be careful that the staff that’s already there is also maintaining their own personal health so that we’re not overworking them to a point where they’re going to get run down and get sick,” said Nagy, explaining that the addition of extra staff can prevent this from happening. 

Maloney encourages the Monmouth community to be careful in day to day situations by remaining cognizant of the virus spreading.

“Avoid touching [the] eyes, nose, and mouth. This is how germs are spread,” she explained. “Clean and disinfect surfaces and objects that may be contaminated.” Maloney also stressed that students should take care of themselves by eating and resting properly.

“Hand washing is a simple act that is not often associated with the prevention of outbreaks like the flu,” said sophomore nursing major Nancy Brown, “It is a quick, effective, and proven to be the number one intervention in stopping the spread of infection.”

Jeffrey Weisburg, Ph.D. a specialist professor of biology, suggests students take preventative measures this flu season by being conscious of hand-washing as well as spreading germs by sneezing or coughing.

Weisburg was also adamant that students make sure they get vaccinated if they have not done so already.  

“There’s no reason why there shouldn’t be one hundred percent compliance with the flu vaccine,” he said. Weisburg stressed that it is a safe way to up one’s immunity against the virus, regardless of what certain critics might say. While the flu shot is not 100 percent effective, it can help with prevention of the virus. Nutrition and rest are also very important to staying healthy.

Maloney explained that the Health Center is ready to help both students and employees during this time for no cost with no appointments needed. Personnel are willing to prescribe anti-viral medication if patients are seen within 48 hours of the onset of symptoms and will provide documentation to excuse them from work or classes to reduce the spread of the virus. 

PHOTO TAKEN by Alexandria Afanador