Stay healthy during flu season


Charles Powell

Hand sanitizers are spread out around campus to help prevent the spread of germs and bacteria.

Charels Powell

‘Tis the season of approaching midterms at Los Medanos College. It is also cold and flu season during a time when few can afford to be sick. However, there are a number of things students can do to keep from becoming ill or help to prevent others from becoming sick.

Registered Nursing Professor Mel Herman explained the main thing is to stop the cycle of illness.
“We call it breaking the chain of infection,” said Herman. “Where we can do that is washing your hands and making sure you cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze.”

Herman said illness is typically spread either through touch or airborne particles. He added the primary organisms that cause infection are either viruses or bacteria. The microscopic fiends are similar in many ways, but have a few key differences.

Herman explained bacteria is a hardier creature than viruses since the former can be passed along easily by touch thanks to their ability to survive on things like door handles, keyboards, money or the bottoms of book bags. The good thing is that there are a range of antibiotics which can effectively combat their effects on the body.

Unfortunately, Herman said, medical science has yet to devise effective counter measures against viruses. Because of this he said it is recommended that antibiotics not be prescribed for the first 7 to 10 days, which is the typical life cycle of a virus.

After repeated usage, Herman explained, medicines designed to kill bacteria lose their effectiveness if the organisms develop resistance over the course of generations. When antibiotics are prescribed without need, or a drug regiment is not completed, it shortens the medication’s usefulness.

One thing that helps prevent the spread of viruses is that they require a living organism to survive, so while they are not easily spread by touch, they are unfortunatly effectively transmitted by coughing or sneezing.

Catching the flu, of course can cause students to miss more class than getting a cold. Herman recommends getting either a flu shot or the spray, which both offer the same amount of protection. He said it doesn’t matter whether you get it from a drugstore or a hospital, but that both should be available for little or no cost.

Herman added that the shots are typically reserved for high-risk patients such as children, the elderly or those with compromised immune systems, since complications are easily tracked with injections. Herman gave a behind-the-scenes look in how the shot is developed.

“We take our best guess against the viruses out there and vaccinate against five to six of them including the H1N1 virus,” he said.

LMC’s Dean of Student Services Gail Newman said that students should listen to their bodies if they feel ill and should stay home from class if they can afford to.

Student Eduardo Bonilla said this is advice he lives by.

“If I feel like I am dizzy or if I am going to be coughing and sneezing over everybody then I shouldn’t go to class,” he said, adding, he is seldom sick, but if he was he would e-mail the professor prior to the class meeting to let them know he would be out.

Newman said students should ask professors what they should do if they have to miss class, and that it is usually included the syllabus. She added people should use the hand sanitizer stations located around campus to help reduce their chances of getting or spreading illness.

Among the places students can find these stations are the library counter, by the entrance to the math building, and the English department on the second level of the main college complex.

Herman explained hand sanitizer is OK for around six uses, but after that people should wash their hands because they will be dirty by then.

“Hand-sanitizer works by killing the bugs (whereas) washing your hands for 30 seconds with soap and water physically removes them,” said Herman.

He stressed the overall importance of breaking-the-chain of infection by taking those steps as well as getting vaccinated because you are then not only preventing yourself from getting sick, but are helping to keep everyone else you come into contact with from becoming ill.

Herman summed up why getting vacinated is so incredibly crucial:
“It is especially important in small confined areas like LMC where you are exposed to large amounts of people.”
If you are interested in getting a flu shot they are available at CVS, Target, Walgreens and Walmart, all of which are located within four miles of either LMC’s Pittsburg or Brentwood campuses. Or go to your health care provider.
If you would like to see more hand sanitizers on campus, contact Buildings and Grounds Manager Russ Holt at [email protected] or by phone at 439-2181 ext. 3225.