Jan 29, 2015
Tackling Swine Flu

By Kyle Garratt

The “traditional” flu season is on its way, although it feels as if flu season started in April and hasn’t quit. And in the year of the pandemic H1N1 influenza, also known as swine flu, it’s more like flu season on steroids. As always, college and high school students face increased risk for the flu thanks to close quarters and increased interaction. Student-athletes are even more susceptible for the same reasons, so here is a look at how different athletic programs are handling the swine flu situation.

Taking to Campus

The American College Health Association found 4,045 new cases of swine flu at 149 of the 204 participating schools last week, and 6,043 cases in the past two weeks. This data also does not include schools in Washington, Utah, Idaho, or Maine. Tulane University serves as an example that college athletes are ideal candidates for the flu–31 football players and six volleyball players believe they contracted swine flu. The football team canceled its Fan Day and the volleyball squad stayed home from its season opener in Nebraska. Duke University, Texas Christian University, and the University of Alabama are among the colleges hit hard by the flu early this fall season.

Football Flu

College football grabs the biggest spotlight, and this year it has contracted its fair share of H1N1. Stillman College had to cancel its home opener when 37 players came down with symptoms, the University of Mississippi may have been bailed out by a bye week, and Washington State University took a hit to its roster and at the gates, as 5,500 fewer fans attended this year’s home opener than last year.

The University of Wisconsin pulled out a double overtime win over Fresno State University last week despite 40 or more players displaying flu symptoms. At least one Badger played in the game before coming out due to illness. This raises questions about whether the team followed university guidelines for preventing the spread of swine flu.

More Cancellations

Soccer became a casualty of flu season when Saint Leo University’s women’s soccer team cancelled two games last week after five of its players became ill.

Hands Off

In an effort to keep the flu at bay, the NCAA recommended that volleyball players forgo the pre- and post-match hand shake. However, experts believe the measure will be largely ineffective. High schools in New York City are also limiting hand-to-hand contact.

Take it Easy

Another hurdle for active and athletic students with the swine flu is that new research suggests exercising with the flu, especially strenuously for a prolonged period, could delay recovery.

“The best information we have says complete bed rest is best,” David Nieman, Director of the human performance lab at Appalachian State University told the Los Angeles Times. “We know that heavy exertion causes a transient downturn in immune function that can last from a few hours to a day. During this downturn, if you have a virus, it will multiply at a higher rate and make you sick.”

Stop the Spread

Swine flu may sound especially nasty, but preventing it comes down to practical advice similar to avoiding many illnesses. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released advice for High Schools.

The advice includes:

  • Staying home when sick
  • Separating ill students from staff
  • Practicing hand and respiratory hygiene
  • Early treatment of high-risk students and staff
  • Considering selective school dismissal

The CDC also released college-specific advice.

The advice includes:

  • Facilitating self-isolation of students and staff who display flu symptoms
  • Discouraging attendance of campus events for ill people
  • Considering special populations such as students studying abroad and disabled students
  • Increase social distances and consider suspending classes

Kyle Garratt is an Assistant Editor at Training & Conditioning.

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