College Endeavors to Prevent Flu Outbreak
By Jeremy Porter, Staff Writer
Gettysburg College is taking steps to avert an outbreak of this year’s seasonal influenza virus, which the Center for Disease Control says is the worst since the 2009 swine flu pandemic.
Last week, students received an email from Julie Ramsey, Dean of Students and Vice President for College Life at Gettysburg, explaining that the flu epidemic that has ravaged the nation is expected to last another 16 weeks.
Accordingly, the college is making great efforts both to prevent those in the campus community from contracting the flu and to assist those who already have. Arguably, the college’s most impactful measure has been administering flu vaccinations.
Judy Williams, Director of Health Services at Gettysburg, said one of her goals for this academic year was to make the flu shot more accessible to the campus community. She successfully argued for a cost reduction for the vaccination – it decreased from $15 last year to $5 this year for students.
Additionally, the Health Center set up vaccination clinics in the library and at Servo during lunchtime, as well as a clinic specifically for student-athletes. Her efforts have been met with success: the Health Center administered 218 flu vaccinations in the fall – a 48 percent increase from last year – and 75 vaccinations in the past week alone. This 48 percent increase even exceeded Williams’s expectations, which were to have a 25 percent improvement.
However, Williams explained that there are still misconceptions about the vaccination on campus. First, she wants to make it clear that the vaccinations are indeed $5, as some students still believe the shot costs as much as a typical appointment at the Health Center. Second, the vaccinations are not only for students: while Gettysburg College employees can get vaccinations covered by their health insurance plan, the Health Center still administered vaccinations to 46 employees in the fall semester and 8 this past week. Williams also mentioned the effectiveness rate of the vaccine, a figure emphasized by various news sources. This number generally falls between 30 and 60 percent, depending on the strains of the virus that season. While this number is not ideal, Williams argued that it is still worth getting a flu shot. Even a 30 percent effectiveness rate gives people a chance to avoid the virus, and studies show that flu patients who were vaccinated have less severe symptoms than those who were not.
In addition to administering vaccinations, the college is also providing increased aid for those on campus who have the flu. According to Ramsey, the Health Center is willing to extend nursing hours for sick students, and, in her email, she provided information for the Wellspan Urgent Care Facility Gettysburg, which is open daily from 8 am to 8 pm. She also said that both the Department of Public Safety and Dining Services at the college are able to help students with meals and transportation if needed.
For students who are currently well, the Health Center recommends taking a number of preventative measures. Williams urges students to get vaccinated, consistently wash/sanitize their hands, drink lots of fluids, get as much sleep as possible, and keep their hands away from the “T-Zone” (eyes, nose, and mouth). She encourages those who are ill to self-isolate and suggests their roommates seek out temporary housing to avoid getting sick.
Williams said that faculty, staff, and the administration are doing a good job relaying this information to students. While there has not been an upsurge in students with the flu so far this semester, she knows this could change now that the first social weekend is over. Regardless of what happens, the college is on alert to keep the campus community as healthy as possible.