Wednesday, October 3, 2001 Volume 67, Issue 30



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
for $10.

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)
community showers."

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 student.

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 cases.

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, Gray said.

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 to avoid.

"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.

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