By Linda Wilkins
Of the 88 flu cases the Baylor Health Center has seen since August, 83 of them have been this semester.
As of Wednesday, the Baylor Health Center has seen 10,174 patients since the beginning of the fall semester.
According to clinic records, the influenza virus is the most likely virus to crop up on campus and can have negative effects on coursework.
Dr. Sharon Stern, the medical director at the health center located on the second floor of the McLane Student Life Center, said the clinic is normally well equipped to handle the virus without seeking help from outside sources.
“Every year we have an influenza outbreak,” Stern wrote in an email to the Lariat. “This year we had a rather large outbreak at the beginning of the spring semester. It has since tapered off quite a bit which is a good thing.”
Stern said the flu is most prevalent sickness because it is easy to transfer and easy to catch. Simply touching someone or something contaminated with the virus and then touching your eyes, nose or mouth areas can transfer the virus.
“Even breathing the air where someone has coughed can transfer the virus,” Stern said.
Stern said getting the proper amount of sleep, eating healthily and exercising regularly help build a healthy body and a healthy immune system, which can help students avoid the flu.
Dr. Hugh Riley, a senior lecturer in psychology and neuroscience, said acute illnesses, such as the flu, are influential, not just because of the illness’s effect on the student, but also because of other factors in the student’s life.
He said if students are sick during the test, then their ability to concentrate can be hindered.
“If there’s a significant contagion then there would be excessive absenteeism,” Riley said.
Nancy Keating, the nursing director at the clinic, said Baylor orders a specific number of flu vaccines that expire each year.
To estimate how many vaccines to order the next year, the clinic totals how many doses of the vaccine were administered the year before and then makes an estimate, Keating said.
While Baylor buys the vaccines from different pharmaceutical companies, it does not make money from selling the vaccines to students because they sell them at cost, which is $20 Keating said.
Since August, 1,600 flu vaccines have been administered so far, Stern said.
The clinic keeps a record of every influenza-like case that comes to the clinic and reports these numbers to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Waco-McLennan Health Department. Samples of the type of flu are sent to these organizations as well, so the strain of the flu can be determined. These results help predict what strain might be prevalent next year so that vaccines can be made accurately.
Although the flu is the most prevalent contagious disease seen on Baylor’s campus, illnesses such as bacterial meningitis, other respiratory infections, stomach viruses and Mononucleosis, or mono, have been on campus in the past.
Stern said the clinic is well prepared to handle illnesses that may occur on campus and there are different plans depending on the outbreak.
The clinic follows several Baylor policies and protocols. These policies and protocols are followed because the clinic is accredited by the Accreditation Association for Ambulatory Health Care, signifying Baylor meets the association’s standard of care.
Stern said in instances where infectious illnesses are spreading or could spread, the clinic works with the Waco-McLennan County Public Health District, which houses the health department.
“We run it by the health department when enough is enough,” Stern said.
Stern said it is a collaborative effort with the health department to stop illnesses from spreading once they have started.
The Baylor clinic handles the initial planning to control the illness, but then the health department steps in and offers suggestions for the best plan of action Keating said.
Kelly Craine, the public information officer with the health department, said the health department does not tell the clinic what to do in the case of a contagious illness, but instead offers advice and help.
“It’s a joint effort,” Craine said. “We don’t say, ‘Do this, this and this.’ We work together.”