Carleton College's student newspaper since 1877

The Carletonian

The Carletonian

The Carletonian

Campus hit by flu

< is spreading around campus at an unusually early point in winter term.

Between Monday, Jan. 1, and Monday, Jan. 15, nine Carleton students have been diagnosed with Influenza-like Illness (ILI). Since Jan. 15, five or six more cases have come up, said Advanced-Practice Registered Nurse (APRN) and Student Health And Counseling (SHAC) Medical Services Coordinator Natalee Johnson.

“It’s a moving target. Everyday we get another one or two,” said Johnson.

Regarding flu trends, “each year is different,” said SHAC APRN Dawn Fadden. “There’s always a peak somewhere in the wintertime, often between January and March.”

The pattern of flu outbreak at Carleton follows the overall trends in Minnesota, said Fadden.

Last year, the state rate of hospitalized influenza cases peaked around late February, and during 2015-16, its height was mid-March, according to The Minnesota Department of Health website. The 2014-15 year saw patterns similar to those we are experiencing now.
While the overall flu rate is not higher than SHAC typically sees in a given year, the specific strain might be more intense than previous years, said Johnson. She said the current dominant strain, H3N2, can be especially compromising.

There are many viral strains of influenza, said Johnson. The flu vaccine protects against the four strains anticipated to be dominant. Most viruses run seven-to-ten day courses, peaking in the first three-to-five days, said Johnson.

For those who catch the flu (or for anyone with a fever above 100.4), SHAC recommends self-isolation for the duration of the fever and 24 hours afterwards. “Self-isolating is a way to keep your immune system strong, because you can rest, hydrate, and do the things you need to do,” said Johnson.

“That’s the best thing for your health and recovery and to minimize transmission to the rest of the campus,” added Fadden. “Regardless of the illness. If you’re feverish, your body’s working hard and you need rest, and you’re probably not going to be able to think and study and learn very much either.”

Amy Roach ’18, who recently got over the flu, said self-isolating was the best method for her. “I was pretty tired, and didn’t want to leave my bed, so I kind of did it to myself. I barely had the energy to walk up three flights of stairs to my room, so I didn’t really have the energy to go out and hang out with people.”

Dani Rader ’21 woke up on the morning of Monday, Jan. 15 with a sore throat. As her symptoms got worse, she decided to make a trip to Urgent Care in Northfield.

At Urgent Care, she was told she’d have a 15-minute wait, but she was not attended to for another hour and a half. During those ninety minutes, Rader developed a fever. 

Roach, on the other hand, went to SHAC when she discovered her flu symptoms. She was directed to Allina Health for a flu test, where the results came back positive. SHAC does not administer rapid flu testing.

“Looking back, I probably should’ve gone straight to Allina,” said Roach. “But it was really easy to schedule an appointment with SHAC, and then when I was there they scheduled an appointment for me at Allina.” Roach used the free Carls-GO service to get to the clinic, which she said “worked perfectly.”

Roach’s symptoms came on very suddenly. “I went to bed Tuesday night with a cough, and my back hurt a little bit, but I woke up Wednesday morning and it was just a total other world,” she reported.

Roach was ill from Wednesday, Jan. 10 to Saturday, Jan. 13. “Sunday was the first day I started getting up and doing things again,” she said. 

Likewise, Rader started to feel better after about a week. But at the worst of the illness, she did not leave Myers Hall, where she resides, for two days.

“I genuinely haven’t been able to do any work,” said Rader. She has fallen especially behind in her choreography class: “I haven’t been able to physically move, so that’s definitely going to affect my ability to complete my assignments.”

Roach, who is underloading and taking Comps this term, missed only one class period. “It was a bummer, but everyone understands,” she said. “They caught me up on stuff. But it was sad socially. I was lying in bed for five days, not able to see people because I don’t want to get them sick, so it was pretty isolating.”

Johnson emphasized the importance of laying low despite Carleton’s demanding pace. “Many students just push through because it’s really hard to get behind at Carleton, in a ten-week term, and so they just go to class,” she said.

“What we’re learning is that that just increases the illness rate for everyone else. Also, you can’t build your immune system when you’re trying to be in peak performance learning. We really are encouraging students to rest.”

SHAC stopped writing notes for professors five or six years ago, noted Johnson. “Our waiting room was filled up with people who needed notes, not people who were sick, so the American College Health Association has said College Health Services should not be note-writing factories, they should be seeing sick and ill students,” she said.

“If you’re finding that it’s just really hard to miss five to seven days on a Carleton ten-week term, and you need some assistance, your Deans are more than happy to help navigate that and shoot interference with the professors,” continued Johnson.

For influenza prevention, SHAC emphasizes non-pharmaceutical interventions, such as frequent hand-washing, covering the nose and mouth and cleaning surfaces.

“Carleton has taken what I think is a really progressive approach by supporting non-pharmaceutical interventions,” said Johnson.
“Part of it has to do with the way we view health and illness versus the way the medical world does,” explained Fadden. “The medical world is faster to jump to pharmaceuticals than we are.”

SHAC considers a number of factors when assessing what should be done for a student, including the medication’s probable effectiveness, side effects, and burden of cost. “We’re taking all of those things into account, knowing that most young healthy people who get influenza are going to feel lousy for a week and then get over it,” said Fadden.

On Tuesday, Oct. 24, and Wednesday, Oct. 25, Student Flu Vaccine Clinics were held in the Great Hall, administered by the Homeland Health Clinic. Because the flu shot is a preventative vaccine, health insurance covers the $35 cost per the Affordable Care Act. 

This year, SHAC saw the highest rate of students get vaccinated at the Carleton clinics. But many students get the flu shot at home, either during the summer or over winter break, so SHAC does not know the total percentage of students at Carleton who have been vaccinated.

Every year, the flu vaccine’s effectiveness differs, explained Johnson. “Some years, the match is right on, and some years, the match is not quite right on. It’s a retrospective declaration, so the only time we’ll know if this year’s match was really good or really bad is after the flu season’s over and all the data has been pulled together,” she said.

Though there will not be any more Flu Vaccine Clinics at Carleton, students can get a flu shot at a number of Northfield locations, including Allina Clinic, Northfield Urgent Care, Walgreens, Cub Foods, EconoFoods, the Northfield Pharmacy and Target’s CVS Pharmacy.
“We worry about flu on a residential campus, because we have so many people living in close proximity,” said Fadden. “It takes just a few people to get it, and it can spread quickly if you have folks who are unvaccinated. So we do encourage vaccination, especially in a setting like this.”

Rader agrees: “Please go get your flu shot!” Rader herself had not been vaccinated before catching the virus, and she has many friends who never got their flu shot either, she said.

“It’s not over yet. It’s still worth getting the flu shot,” said Johnson. “It takes about two weeks to kick in, but it’s still worth it, because it hasn’t peaked yet. It’s good to still work to protect yourself.”

“If you get it once, it doesn’t mean you’re protected from getting one of the other viral strains, so it really behooves us to do things to boost our immune systems,” Johnson continued. “Getting enough sleep is critical here at Carleton. Sleep is where our white cells are generated to fight infection. Staying hydrated, managing our stress levels, anything that keeps our immune system strong is the goal when you’re in a residential campus and everyone’s living in everyone’s space.”

Leave a Comment
More to Discover

Comments (0)

All The Carletonian Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *