Virginia experiencing widespread flu activity, on-campus activity stays small
University’s campus is no larger than it has been in past years, and only about 1 percent of students have been confirmed with the flu, according to information from official Liberty spokesman Len Stevens.
The concern of an influenza “outbreak” has grown throughout campus in the past week after Liberty students received multiple emails from the Liberty University Health Center claiming of a widespread case of influenza and giving students tips to prevent getting sick.
“A widespread influenza outbreak is occurring on campus,” the first email from Liberty’s health center, which was sent Feb. 6, said.
“If you are experiencing any of the following symptoms, please go to the Student Health Center for a flu test.”
The email listed several symptoms including coughing, nasal congestion and back pain as possible signs of having the flu and recommended students avoid close contact, clean their hands and avoid touching their faces to help stop the spread of influenza on campus.
Follow-up emails were sent by Liberty’s Health Center to students later that week, with one informing students that university-provided transportation is available if they need medical treatment.
The email stated there was an influx of visits to the campus health center, but students could visit an immediate care center elsewhere.
“Due to an increased number of visits to the Student Health Center, our partners at Central Virginia Family Physicians (CVFP) have agreed to treat your urgent health needs this weekend,” the email, which was sent Friday, Feb. 10, said.
Unconfirmed reports that Liberty may close down its operations due to a high percentage of sick students circulated through campus, but official campus reports gave no evidence this was a possibility.
Liberty’s health center sent a third email last Saturday in response to confront the hysteria on campus.
The subject line was “No need to panic,” and the email stated.
there is only a “small segment of the student population” with the flu.
One of the most recent email sent out to Liberty students concerning influenza was sent from the Dean of Students Office stating students will be given excused absences if they have the flu throughout the month of February.
Students were told in the email to contact their respective professor to let them know they have the flu instead of attending class.
In the most recent update of Liberty’s attendance policy, students are given either four, three or one absence without penalty per semester depending how often their class meets.
In contrast to years past, the attendance policy states absences due to illness will take away one of the granted absences given to students.
Until the email from the dean of students arrived, there were complaints the new attendance policy may have convinced some to attend class despite their sickness.
Elsewhere, several public schools near Lynchburg and central Virginia announced a higher-than-normal percentage of students out with the flu.
In nearby Pittslyvania County, 11 out of its 18 public schools have slightly higher rates of absences, and three of its schools have 7.5-10 percent of the student population out, according to school officials.
One school in particular, John L. Hurt Elementary School in Pittsylvania County, reported that approximately 20 percent of its students have been absent, causing local health agencies to send out emails similar to Liberty’s that give tips on how to prevent the spread of influenza.
Other local colleges, including Lynchburg College, Randolph College and Sweet Briar College, also have not reported a widespread case of influenza within their schools, but Randolph College did send an e-mail out to students last week reminding them it is not too late to receive a flu shot.
According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), the months of February and March are peak times for influenza in Virginia, and flu vaccination rates tend to be strikingly low among college campuses.
Though it is recommended that at least 70 percent of people in a given region receive their flu shot, the CDC estimates that at most 39 percent of college students receive their flu shot.
Emails from universities reminding
students on how to stay healthy, then, is not out of the norm, according to Stevens.
At the national scale, the CDC also reports that 40 states currently have
widespread flu activity, including Virginia, which has seen widespread flu activity for the past six weeks.
If students believe they have influenza or another sickness, they are instructed to visit the Liberty Student Health Center located in Green Hall, Room 1895.
The health center is open Monday-Friday from 8 a.m.-5 p.m.