BLACKSBURG, Va., Jan. 21, 2011 – The following is an open letter to the Virginia Tech community from Kanitta Charoensiri, director, Schiffert Health Center.
To the Virginia Tech Community,
The Schiffert Health Center has already been extremely busy just two days into the new semester with several cases of influenza.
Our recommendations to you, consistent with those of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) , are to get vaccinated for influenza if you have not yet done so. It takes one to two weeks to develop immunity once vaccinated. We also recommend frequent handwashing (especially before touching the face), avoiding contact with ill people, and getting enough sleep to minimize risk.
If you are ill with symptoms of flu (sudden onset of fever, muscle aches, headache, dry cough, congestion, sore throat, weakness), we recommend that you self-isolate and not attend class until you are fever-free for 24 hours without fever-reducing medications such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen. Unless you are experiencing severe symptoms or have underlying medical conditions such as diabetes or asthma, we may not need to see you at the health center. We ask that you call with any concerns about symptoms or regarding self-management. We understand that this may create an increased burden for make-up work and exams; however, our goal is to prevent the spread of the flu as much as possible in an environment that is very conducive to contagious illnesses. We are asking for flexibility with attendance and class work from your professors.
The flu/flu-like illness is a clinical diagnosis and the CDC clearly states that all patients do not need to be tested if they have the characteristic symptoms. The Rapid Flu Test shows sensitivity between 10 and 70 percent. A positive test is a good indication that one does in fact have the flu, but a negative test does not mean that one doesn’t. Testing is not simply a swab of the throat, but involves a very deep swab of the nasal passage. Testing does not change management of the flu. However, testing should be considered for those with severe illness and complications. We ask that you not come to the health center or go to the emergency room simply for testing. By doing so, you put other students, patients, and health care staff at risk for illness.
Most people ill with influenza will recover without complications and treatment is mainly symptomatic. Treatment with anti-viral medication is recommended for those at highest risk of influenza-related complications: severe illness, young children, pregnant women, those with chronic illness or immunosuppressive conditions, people younger than 19 years old receiving aspirin therapy, and patients presenting with warning signs (difficulty breathing and lower respiratory tract illness). To simply treat everyone would only contribute to resistance and possible mutation of the virus.
Your cooperation in helping to contain and prevent the spread of the flu is greatly appreciated.
Kanitta Charoensiri, D.O., M.B.A.