Higher nationwide influenza rates hit college

The Center for Disease Control has reported that influenza is “widespread” throughout most of the United States. Geneseo has also faced an increase in such cases. 

During the week that ended on Jan. 20, the New York State Department of Health reported 7,779 lab-tested influenza cases. Lauderdale Health & Counseling has also handled around 36 cases of influenza, according to Medical Director and Interim Administrative Director Dr. Steven Radi. 

“We’ve been watching our numbers rise since the semester began and it went up very significantly from the first week of class to the second week of class,” Radi said. “This is a more significant flu season than we’ve had in a number of years as far as the number of cases and the severity of the symptoms.” 

Lauderdale is unsure whether the number of cases will continue to rise, according to Radi. Influenza may only continue to increase for one or two weeks, or cases may continue for as many as 10 weeks, Radi continued.

Despite the growth in outbreaks, much of Lauderdale’s public health approach will likely remain the same, according to Radi. Radi similarly explained that Lauderdale generally guides students to consistently maintain sanitary habits, sleep a sufficient amount and consume a healthy amount of fluids. 

“The message always is to wash your hands, wash your hands, wash your hands and to use the sanitizers that are all over campus,” Radi said. “We’ve made sure that our sanitizers are out there and filled in places where there’s a lot of public interaction.”

Lauderdale will continue to offer the flu vaccine at the beginning of the semester. People who receive the vaccine now may be able to avoid contracting the illness or the shot may diminish some of the symptoms, according to Radi. 

Biology major freshman Amy Dhaliwal does not believe the higher influenza prevalence is due to doctors’ negligence. 

“Doctors can’t really guess which strand of the flu is going to be more prevalent that year, so it’s not really their fault,” Dhaliwal said. “But I got my flu shot this year because I don’t want to get the flu.”

Psychology major junior Erin Seenauth spoke of her own preparations for the rise in influenza. 

“It’s really annoying because I’m getting sick myself,” Seenauth said. “It’s such a small campus so it spreads like wildfire … I live pretty far from campus so I have to prepare myself for the day. I have extra hand sanitizer. I don’t like to touch things.” 

If students contract the illness, Radi indicated that they may want to avoid public places to prevent the spread of influenza. 

“My hope is that we peak real soon,” Radi said. “I tend to be optimistic about these things and think that people are doing their best to stay healthy. Some people are actually staying home from public places in which there’s a lot of potential for infection, and that’s not a bad idea either. I don’t think the college needs to cancel public events … but I think it’s something people need to think about."