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Inside Iowa State, a newspaper for faculty and staff, is published by the Office of University Relations.

November 19, 2004

Flu? Not you

by Anne Krapfl

It's one of the most anticipated events of 2004: flu season. Whether or not your fall routine typically included a date with a vaccination needle, the lack of flu vaccine this fall has many feeling ill-prepared to enjoy a healthy winter.

Not getting immunized doesn't mean you will experience the flu this winter. Sarah Cooney, supervisor of nursing services at the Thielen Student Health Center, said many commonsense practices can help boost your immune system when you need it most: eat nutritious foods, get sufficient rest, stay away from sick people, exercise or do other physical activity regularly and wash your hands frequently. Protect others by covering your mouth when you cough or sneeze.

The flu "season" is roughly December to March. Because it takes several weeks for immunizations to work, the normal vaccination period is October to December. But if quantities of vaccination become available in December or January, Cooney said that's not too late to help defend against influenza.

ISU custodial staff do their part -- year-round -- to keep employees healthy. According to Paul Haggard, manager of custodial services, drinking fountains and bathroom door plates, sinks and toilets are wiped down and disinfected daily as a precaution against the spread of germs.

Early symptoms of the flu include a fever and cough. Cooney recommends that if you experience both, stay home -- both to rest and to avoid infecting your co-workers. Other symptoms include fatigue, muscle aches, sore throat and a runny or stuffy nose.

Lab testing from a nasal swab confirms influenza. Cooney said some physicians will prescribe anti-viral drugs, but these must be started within the first day or two of symptoms. Depending on the patient, medication may reduce the length or severity of flu symptoms.

Beside medications, good things to give your flu-stricken body -- in large quantities -- are rest and fluids (avoid alcohol and caffeine).

Keep it clean at work

  • If you share a phone, wipe it down with a disinfectant cloth once a day.
  • Wipe your desk off regularly.
  • Wash your hands frequently, particularly after using the bathroom. Additionally, Cooney recommends washing hands when you arrive at work and before you leave for the day. Ten seconds (roughly the Happy Birthday song) of scrubbing with soap is recommended.