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Cold, flu and dreary weather welcome returning students to Spring Semester

Malinda Groening

It may be invisible but it's everywhere around campus, ready to catch innocent victims off-guard. It hides in handshakes, kisses and coffee mugs. Students return to classes with dreams of finally staying on task this semester but instead are hit by the cold and flu.

Freshwoman Shoshana Bass contracted a cold two weeks ago when she returned to Mills. "I stayed in bed and slept for three days straight and drank lots and lots and lots of tea," she said.

According to the section of the San Francisco Department of Public Health on their Web site entitled "Communicable Disease Control Prevention Center," people are at risk for contracting the flu who live in dormitories or other shared facilities due to crowded conditions. Unlike the common cold which lasts up to seven days, the flu can last two weeks or longer. It spreads from an infected person's nose or throat to others'. Symptoms include fever, sore throat, chills, fatigue, coughing, headache and muscle aches.

"I got a really bad flu freshman year and missed so much class. I don't have the schedule to get sick," said Helen Vance, a junior.

The SF Public Health Web site says that 6,000 Californians die from complications with influenza every year; most are young children, people over 65 years old and those with chronic medical conditions like heart disease, diabetes, asthma and immune suppression.

"I was sick between Thanksgiving and Christmas break. I was dizzy, coughing, had a runny nose and just that really gross feeling you get when you just don't feel good no matter what," said Shelby Philips, a freshwoman living in Orchard Meadow.

Philips said that five or six students living in the wing of her dormitory were sick during that time. She also said that she gets sick every year.

"When school is in the winter and cough season, it's everywhere. I've worked at several other centers and it's standard, across the board," said an advice nurse from the Tang Center, who wished to remain anonymous. She recommended the influenza vaccination.

Phillips disagreed, "I hate shots. I know a lot of people who get it and get sick afterward."

The advice nurse said that people develop symptoms due to the building of antibodies to the vaccination.

The SF Public Health Web site recommends the inactivated "flu shot" injection annually because vaccines are updated each year. The viruses that are used in inactivated vaccines are killed before administered as an injection. It takes two weeks for the protection to develop and it can last up to a year.

Vance said that she saw fliers around campus for the shot and hasn't caught the flu since she received the vaccination in 2005.

A live, weakened vaccine that is administered through a nasal spray was licensed in 2003. Such active vaccines use live viruses whose harmful properties have been disabled. However, the spray is not recommended for people with long-term health problems, while the inactivated injection is approved for everyone.

Section 5.10 of the Residential Policies on the Mills Web site recommends influenza immunizations under Public Health and Communicable Diseases.

Other means of containment include avoiding close contact with people, washing hands, covering one's mouth and nose, and staying home.

Freshwoman Genny Evans, who contracted a cold five days ago, said that she battles the cold by drinking tea, eating oranges and taking Flintstone Vitamins.

Other holistic remedies include taking echinacea, ginseng, gingko biloba, vitamin C and calcium. Contact a health professional for proper use of alternative medicine.