Swine flu epidemic causes student hospitalizations, health department takes action

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It seems as if 2009 Swine Flu (H1N1) is back for more, and this time it has brought additional new flu strains. Because of this, the State of Kansas recommends everyone six months of age and older get a flu shot. 

Last week, more than 5 percent of doctors’ visits were because of influenza-like symptoms, the Kansas Department of Health and Environment reported. This number was more than double the occurrence for the same week in 2012. There have been 892 cases of Swine Flu and 164 cases of Influenza A reported to the CDC in the nation’s west north central region as of Jan. 10.

Influenza, the eighth leading cause of death in Kansas, is a major concern for physicians and major health organizations. It’s estimated that 5 to 10 percent of Americans are sick with the flu every year.

In 2013, 1,444 deaths were reported. So far, there have been three deaths statewide.

Last month, Lawrence Memorial Hospital confirmed more than 97 cases of flu in a 12-day period. As a result, physicians at Watkins Student Health Center encourage college students to get vaccinated.

“This year we will be very worried about [the flu] in the college student,” said Dr. Leah Luckeroth, a physician at Watkins Student Health Center. “I still highly recommend not to share drinks or food.”

The everyday activities of college students make them more susceptible to illnesses, especially the flu, said Luckeroth. In addition to sharing food, college students don’t prioritize sleep and healthy eating habits, and the 18-22 age group is less likely to get immunized. This susceptibility lead to especially bad influenza cases, like freshman Taylor Cameron.

Cameron started off mildly sick and ended up in the hospital. Last November, Cameron got a stomachache that she attributed to too much coffee. She realized it wasn’t just a stomachache after vomiting multiple times.

“I was so weak,” she said. “I definitely knew I needed an IV.”

Cameron’s friends drove her to the hospital and her nurse told her she was going to have surgery.

At first, her illness was mistaken for appendicitis. The second nurse, however, stopped the surgery. Cameron was put on an IV and bed rest. She stayed in bed for three days and missed an exam.

Before her illness, Cameron wasn’t vaccinated.

“I’ve been against the flu shot for a long time,” Cameron said.  “When I got [the shot] in junior high, I got flu symptoms. I knew a bunch of people who got a shot and still got the flu.”

Cameron’s case isn’t unique; other students are coming down with potentially life-threatening cases.

“There are people that are young that are getting hospitalized,” Luckeroth said. These hospitalized college students join the more than 200,000 flu-related hospitalizations nationwide, according to Kansas Department of Health and Environment.

Knowing these preventative measures can help classmates and friends, Luckeroth said.

“If you have a friend and they aren’t getting better and they aren’t going to the doctor, encourage them to do so because we do not want a bad outcome,” Luckeroth said.

  • Updated Jan. 23, 2014 at 9:19 am
  • Concerned healthcare professio

    Is this story referring to the respiratory flu, which can kill and has an available vaccine to prevent it, or the stomach flu, for which the flu shot does no good (because it’s not the same thing) and you only wish you were dead? Either I am not reading something correctly, or this article is about to further spread a lot of misinformation…

    • joedecker

      I see your point. H1N1 is deadly, and is at least in part respiratory.

      Reference: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/H1N1

      Just because something affects the stomach does not mean that it doesn’t affect other parts of the body, apparently.