12 - The Michigan Daily - Friday, January 21, 2000
( y y' I
As the Influenza virus spreads across
campus with the winter wether,
students prepare to fight off infection
It's 5 am. The itchy, burning cough,
revents you - and your roommate -
om sleeping. The pile of homework
seems to be throbbing in rhythm with
your headache as your fever approaches
104 degrees. The trauma caused by your
8 a.m. biology lab can't even match the
muscle pains throughout your body.
You've just been attacked by a winter bug.
This time of year the University Health Service sees
many patients with respiratory illnesses and hospital
waiting rooms are full of influenza patients.
"Most infectious diseases tend to have seasons that
they are most common," said UHS interim Director
Robert Winfield. "No one really knows why they're
The most common winter-time illnesses are common
colds, influenza, streptococcal infections and seasonal
The common cold, a contagious viral infection of the
upper respiratory tract characterized by inflammation of
the mucous membranes, can make sufferers feel as
though they're about to keel over.
Symptoms include a runny nose, nasal congestion,
sneezing, sore throat, coughing, muscle aches, headache
and fever. Colds are responsible for 30 to 50 percent of
time lost from work by adults and 60 to 80 percent of
time lost from school for children, according to
Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine.
The virus responsible for most common colds can be
traced to one of more than 200 rhinoviruses or another
respiratory virus called a coronavirus. The virus is passed
from one person to another primarily through
direct contact and also from droplets pro-
duced by a cough or sneeze.
Winfield said one study determined that colds were
passed primarily through direct contact by examining the
interactions between infected and non-infected individu-
als playing a card game. The non-infected individuals
who wore surgical gloves during the game had a low
incidence of infection, whereas those not wearing gloves
w ere more likely to become infected.
But with age the immune system becomes more adept
to defending against colds. As people grow older, they
are less susceptible to catching a cold.
According to Harrison's Principles of Internal
Medicine, children younger than six years of age catch
6.1 to 8.3 separate colds per year, while the incidence
for an adult is three to four cases per year.
This decrease has been attributed to the body's pro-
duction of antibodies against the cold, making the body
immune to certain viruses.
Influenza, or "the flu" for short, has had an unusu-
ally large outbreak this season.
The flu is a serious viral infection that may seem sim-
ilar to a cold but is not related.
"It's a specific illness," Winfield said. "All the symp-
toms hit you at the same time like a ton of bricks. So if
you've had a cough for a few days and now have a sore
throat, you probably don't have the flu."
The flu season, which generally runs from November
to February, hits its peak this month, Winfield said. The
illness is caused by either Influenza virus A or Influenza
virus B, he said, and currently the A virus is spreading
across the state.
According to the Federal Centers for Disease Control
and Prevention Website, 10 to 20 percent of the U.S.
population experience the flu each year. Most people
recover after about one to two weeks and are contagious
for three to five days.
But the illness can be serious, especially if accompa-
nied by pneumonia. The CDC attributes the deaths of
about 20,000 people each year in the United States to
The general symptoms of the flu are fevers higher than
101 degrees, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose,
headache, muscle aches and fatigue. The symptoms all
People are susceptible to the flu each year because of
the virus' ability to mutate.
An uncomfortable symptom of the winter bug can be
the dreaded sore throat. The irritation can mean many
things for those afflicted with the condition, most of
which are not serious.
Many colds are accompanied by a sore throat, but
occasionally a sev ere sore throat can lead to other prob-
Of all the "bad" sore throats that UHS clinicians exam-
ine, about 5 percent are diagnosed as strep throat,
Winfield said. Another small proportion are indications
Strep throat, which includes symptoms such as fever,
sore throat and tender and swollen neck glands, is an
inflammation of the pharynx caused by infection.
The infection f;r a sore throat is transferred by droplets
from coughs and sneezes and those with the condition
can be contagious for 10 to 21 days without treatment,
according to the cDC Website.
But not illness are physical -- some are emotional.
Seasonal Affective Disorder is a form of depression that
occurs due to a change in the seasons.
"SAD is related to the lack of sunlight," said Vicki
Hays, a psychologist at University Counseling and
Psychological Services. "It normally starts in October or
November with relief in March, but some people have
symptoms in the opposite months."
Some symptoms of SAD include depression, lack of
energy, decreased interest in activities that were at one
time enjoyed, an increase or decrease in appetite, carbo-
hydrate cravings, increased or decreased sleep, with-
drawal from social acti ities and slow or sluggish move-
ment with the change of seasons.
"SAD is different from people that just feel down,"
Hays said. "SAD occurs over a period of time, not just
an occasional sense of the winter blues."
SAD is more common in northern regions, where there
is reduced sunlight during the winter months.
Although a thick cloud cover may seem a formidable
obstacle for sufferers, there are treatment options avail-
able, including light therapy, anti-depressant medication
"If we assess the indiv idual and determine that SAD
is the problem we will refer them to UH IS for medication
if that seems appropriate and talk about light therapy,"
Light therapy also known as phototherapy, seems to
make symptoms subsd but they often come back after
treatment is stopped. Special biihts
are used to simulate a sunnier
environment. For milder cases of
SAD, spending more time out- "Peoplea
doors can be beneficial to suffer-
"Our recommendation is toA
come in w h nexer you feel we have TO rd
might be hepl, I s said. "We courteo
see more than .000 st udents a
year for various issues. I think it's
important for people to know that University Healt
you don't have to suffer - there
Photo Illustration by DAVID.ROCHKIND/Daily
Sneezing Into tissues can reduce the spread of viral Infections.
as well as soothe a sore throat and help thin mucus secre-
tions so that the body can more easily expel them.
In terms of medications, many over-the-counter reme-
dies, including analgesics, antihistamines, decongestants,
cough medications and lozenges, can be effective in
Analgesics are pain killers that can relieve body aches
and headaches, reduce fevers and relieve sore throats.
This group includes acetaminophen such as Tylenol,
ibuprofen products such as Advil, and naproxen sodium
medication such as Aleve
"We don't recommend
rent put aspirin to anyone under 20
years old because of compli-
,Y so wecations associated with
l y onWinfield said.
- ty Antihistamines, such as
b Benadryl, are used to dry the
- Robert Winfield mucous membranes to stop
Service interim Director runny noses. But Winfield
said these medications often
cause drowsiness and are
recommended primarily for allergies and not colds.
Decongestants help to shrink swollen nasal mem-
branes to make breathing easier.
Cough medicines can be classified as expectorants,
which help to loosen phlegm and mucus, or suppres-
sants, which help suppress the coughing reflex. Many
cough medications contain both the expectorant and
"The best cough medicine contains dextromethorphan
and guaifenesin," Winfield said. "An example of this
would be Robitussin DM."
Lozenges and throat sprays can be used to relieve pain
from a sore throat. Lozenges come in a variety of flavors
and are dissolved in the mouth. Throat sprays can also
offer relief by numbing areas of pain.
"I take an antiseptic throat spray for my throat," Spirer
said. "It helps because it makes my throat feel numb so I
don't even feel it."
With the increase of illnesses during the winter month
comes a higher demand for treatments.
"There is always an increase (in over-the-counter
drugs and prescriptions) during the winter," said David
Gartrell, a pharmacist at the Meijer pharmacy on Ann
Arbor-Saline Road "There is also an increase in the
A only and sell for $10 and $20 respectively. Tamiflu
and Relenza work for influenza A or B and retail for $50
The only winter illness with a vaccine is the flu.
Vaccines need to be taken every year and although they
are not 100 percent effective, they can be very benefi-
cial, Winfield said.
"People aren't put on quarantine," Winfield said
"so we have to rely on courteous behavior."
Covering the mouth during a sneeze or cough
decreases the chance of spreading germs to others.
"If someone in class is coughing and blowing their
nose near you, you might want to move," Winfield said.
For non-infected individuals who want to stay healthy,
frequent hand washing can help to kill germs. Keeping
hands away from mucous membranes is also an impor-
tant preventative action since germs have the best chance
of getting into the body that way.
"I skate on a precision figure-skating team and it's nec-
essary to touch each other," LSA junior Kristen Van
Heest said. "We're really careful about washing our
hands before practice so the whole team doesn't get
Other tactics helpful in boosting immune systems are
getting enough rest and regular exercise.
It has been suggested that Vitamin C may help strength-
en resistance to a viral infection, but studies have yet to
prove this, according to UHS health pamphlets. But
according to the information, taking Vitamin C doesn't
hurt if taken in quantities less than 500 milligrams per day.
The effectiveness of other popular treatments, such as
the nasal gel Vicam, are also under question by medical
"It's the hot item now," Gartrell said. "It just came out
a month ago and is supposed to block nasal receptors in
the nose to keep from getting sick. I've used it and it
seems to work."
Impact on classes
What seemed like a blessing in high school is now a
burden in college. Illness in college can cause academ-
ic problems, especially when important classes are
"The most important thing is to get better," said
LSA Academic Adviser Rob Gordon. "If you just
miss a few classes, it's Drobably no big deal and
Although winter illnesses are not altogether avoidable
they do not hay.e to be miserable. While most bugs are
viruses with no cure, there are a slew of medications to
help alleviate the symptoms
Antibiotics are used only when necessary for many
reasons, W i n fiei d said. 'The four main reasons are
because most illnesses are viral, antibiotics kill normal
germs as well as the bad ones. there could be complica-
tions of antibioetis such as yeast infections, allergies,
skin rashes and intestinal upset and lastly they allow
germs to be selected out that are resistant."
Winfield said this can be dangerous because if the
germs surviv e the attack by the antibiotic, they can pro-
duce mutated germs immune to antibiotic medica-
But there is sometimes a point where over-the-
counter medicaions are not enough and antibiotics
are necessary. \Vinleld said it is important to consult a
doctor in the case of a high fever ior several days, severe
ear pain, severe or persistent cough, a cough that pro-
duces yello, green or bloody phlegm, shortness of
htt-..ath anti rra i xont