Bethel Wellness Center offers students healthy advice in the midst of severe flu season

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This flu season has been one of the worst in United States history, and it's not over yet. According to the Indiana State Department of Health, there have already been 167 influenza-associated deaths in Indiana alone this season. That number sounds even higher when you compare it to 10 deaths at this same time last year.

So how is this flu season affecting Bethel? As it turns out, Bethel’s Wellness Center has not yet diagnosed one flu case this season. "I've had some suspected cases, and a few people I know of that got confirmed with the flu somewhere else," said Stephanie Gonzalez, Bethel's health services director. "But here, probably what I've seen the most of is viral illnesses that are actually not influenza; so either just an upper respiratory virus or a flu-like virus...there's a pretty bad strain of what's called an adenovirus that seems to be going around this year." According to Gonzalez, the symptoms of an adenovirus are similar to the flu, including upper respiratory symptoms and fever, and typically last around 10 days. "Adenoviruses actually...live on surfaces a lot longer than flu viruses do, so my guess would be (that) people that are really sick, but are not actually testing positive for influenza, my assumption would be that something like that is what seems to be spreading." Gonzalez added that an adenovirus can last 2-3 weeks on an uncleaned surface, such as a doorknob, whereas flu viruses would only last 2-3 days. Though Gonzalez herself has not diagnosed any flu cases this year, she did say she has heard of several people who received a flu diagnosis elsewhere, and emphasizes that it's important to respond right away if you start to exhibit symptoms. "You have to come in within 48 hours of the symptoms starting to get that test in order to get the Tamiflu," said Gonzalez. "If someone comes in (within) the first 48 hours of having flu-like symptoms, I can do (a flu-test) here. So if I get a positive influenza test, I can write a prescription for the Tamiflu, and so then a student could take that to whatever pharmacy they prefer to go to and get that filled." Gonzalez noted that the Tamiflu has been especially effective against this year's dominant strain of flu, H3N2.  Gonzalez also encouraged students to stay home if they are running a fever. "I usually tell people when they come in here 'Don't go to class, don't go to work, until the fever is gone,' because the chance of being contagious goes down quite a bit after the fever is gone." For those who want to stay healthy, Gonzalez recommends frequently washing hands and taking supplements such as Airborne Plus. The Wellness Center is open 8 am-5 pm Mondays through Thursdays; the flu test costs $15. You can find the Indiana State Department of Health's weekly influenza reports here. (Photo Credit: Bethel College Wellness Center Facebook)
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