Michael Simes of Newmarket, an active and otherwise healthy University of New Hampshire student, spent a week straight during J-term break cemented to his bed. What started out as a mild cold rapidly manifested itself into a monster that rears its ugly head across campuses nationwide every year.
“I ended up losing 10 pounds because I couldn’t eat anything. I slept the whole time,” said Simes regarding his experience with the nasty H3N2 strain that is going around this year. Simes was admitted to the hospital twice over break because he was struck with fevers of 104°F and 105°F that would not regulate. First, at Exeter Hospital, then, at Portsmouth Regional he received fluids and fever reduction medication. “It was very hard to stand up and walk for a day or two cause I was so dehydrated,” he said, “It became very severe.”
As the influenza virus reproduces and spreads this year, students and faculty at UNH should take extra preventative measures for a particularly harsh blight of the flu and pneumonia. According to the Center for Disease control website and the National Center for Health Statistics, influenza and pneumonia related deaths for the week ending on Jan. 20 account for 10.1% of the health related mortality for that week; that is 2.8% higher than the official epidemic rate of 7.3%. Data also shows that the entire United States is currently at or above epidemic mortality threshold for influenza. Region 1 (Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont) reportedly has 27 flu related deaths for that same week as of Feb. 8.
According to the mass email sent to all students and faculty, it is very important to schedule an appointment with UNH Health and Wellness or your healthcare provider if you have any or more of the following symptoms:
Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
Pain or pressure in chest or abdomen
Severe or persistent vomiting
Persistent fever (100°F or more) for 4 or more days.
Flu-like symptoms improve but then return with fever or worse cough
As for Jasmin Petrosino, a UNH senior and Hospitality major, that is exactly what she did. “A couple days ago I woke up and my tonsils were swollen,” she said “that’s how I know I’m about to get really sick.”
Petrosino woke up on the morning of Feb. 7 light headed and unable to stand up for more than five minutes. It was the first “snow day” of the semester and the roads prevented her from going to urgent care as her symptoms were progressively getting worse.
Like the unfolding of a horror movie, she sat in the safety of her bedroom or bathroom, moreover, praying to the porcelain god, awaiting an unfortunate fate. “The next day I was in so much pain, vomiting, and was really nauseous,” said Petrosino who’s roommate took her to urgent care that very day.
She waited for two hours in an empty waiting room at Wentworth Douglass Hospital Urgent Care in Lee for them to tell her that she did not have the flu but probably something else viral.
“They checked my vitals, the whole shebang, and tested me for strep. I had a temperature of 99°F,” she said, “the doctor told me if I had the flu, I would feel like I got hit by a bus.”
A few days later after the original interview, Petrosino said she was skeptical about her lack of diagnosis. “I’m clearly sick and he never gave me an explanation to what I have,” she texted “I’ve been so sick for almost a week now.”
Her predicament remains unsolved, and for her, a second opinion might be warranted.
Rachel Tishavich, 21, is a third year marketing major at UNH. To kick off her semester, she missed three whole classes all because of the nuisance that is the flu. Thankfully, she made the right choice by going to her home in Stratham in order to avoid spreading the illness to her roommates.
“It came on very suddenly. I woke up with a sore throat and the chills, but went to my morning class anyways. When I left campus to go home, I found out I had a fever and over the days I developed really bad body aches, sweats, chills, and headaches,” said Tishavich.
Tishavich had a fever of 102℉ and reportedly could not leave her couch for five whole days.
“I knew I was sick right away,” she said “I had to have 3 blankets on me constantly or else I would start shaking from being so cold.”
As far as what she would say to someone who has never experienced the flu or has not heard of how bad it is this year, she stressed the importance of going to the doctor immediately when symptoms are present. Even though she gets her flu shots every year, she still contracted the illness.
“Tell your doctor and get Tamiflu [an antiviral medication] because it’s only effective one to two days after symptoms start,” said Tishavich.
UNH Health and Wellness does not want to create unwarranted concern. According to Judy Stevens, she thinks it is under control here on campus, but she stresses that if you suspect that you have the flu it is very important to contact health services.
According to Judy Stevens, RN, and community health nurse/wellness educator at UNH Health and Wellness, epidemiologists can see that flu season usually peaks in November through March, but this year it is peaking now and should continue to have its grips on campus up through May. The people who are especially at risk are those of us who stay inside a lot and even more so those who live residence halls. It is crucial to remember that not skipping meals, getting enough sleep, and staying away from others who are sick are some of the best things you can do to help your immune system and avoid this year’s nasty virus.
Above all, Stevens cannot stress enough the importance of washing your hands with soap and water. “I know it sounds obvious but think about when you’re touching surfaces that a lot of people have touched; [think about] your phone screen,” she said.
Stevens also emphasized the importance of getting your flu shot. Although it is February, there are still shots available at Health and Wellness which are free for full time students — all you have to do is make an appointment online. “You can’t get the flu from the flu shot and ours have no preservatives,” she said.
Regarding UNH Health and Wellness consultations this year, mostly what they are seeing are appointments for upper respiratory illnesses, the category that all flu related visits tend to fall under. Health and Wellness is also giving out cold kits containing tissues, tea, cough lozenges, and information about containing the illness.