Health Center helps students
avoid 'dorm flu'
By Wendy Williamson
Daily Cougar Staff
Although there have been reports of an
increase in meningoccal meningitis cases on U.S. college campuses, the
real major health risk for college
students is upper respiratory infections,
according to a UH physician.
Pin Lim/The Daily Cougar
Lillian Peterson, a nurse
at the UH Health Center, prepares to administer a flu vaccine shot to a
student. The shots are available to UH students and staff
And these include more than just the common
cold. Mononucleosis, strep throat, tonsillitis and bronchitis are only
some of the respiratory infections that
are easily transmitted on campus.
The close proximity of students in residence
halls may increase the chance of contracting a bacterial disease, said
Dr. James Gray, chief physician at the
UH Health Center.
"Respiratory infections are a top threat
because they can travel so easily," Gray said. "For instance, through sharing
(sodas) and food and (using)
Gray said there have been no cases of meningitis
at UH so far this year, and the one reported case last year was a non-resident
Statistics compiled by the federal Centers
for Disease Control show that the national average of cases of upper respiratory
infections among patients in
outpatient clinics is 12.6 percent.
Dr. Roger Peters, a UHHC staff physician,
said the CDC does not calculate the national average on college campuses,
but that it was approximately 80
percent among college health clinic outpatient
Although the CDC states that meningitis
is a health risk among freshman students living in dormitories, the average
rate of infection is only about 2
Precautions to take to avoid upper respiratory
infections include washing hands often, eating well, getting plenty of
sleep, refraining from alcohol
consumption and not sharing food and drinks,
The most important precaution to take,
he said, is protecting against sexually transmitted diseases. Any kind
of viral infection can weaken a person's
immune system, making him or her more
prone to infections.
Gray said college students are often guilty
of taking the same health risks that the Health Center tries to teach them
"Dietary habits are appalling: no breakfast,
rushing through a sandwich and a (soda) for lunch, a burger for supper,
and then to bed by 3 (a.m.)," he said.
The Health Center holds an annual orientation
for new students to educate them on ways to prevent bacterial diseases,
he said. The center also sends
out flyers about vaccinations and readily
accepts invitations to speak at residence halls, fraternities and sororities,
and other campus organizations.