Influenza strain A has been extraordinarily harmful this year in comparison to past years and has been highly contagious due to a lower rate of effectiveness of the flu vaccine.
“Every day in clinic we have a couple of flu cases,” said Anna Cavazos Tobon, university physician. “But we’ve been seeing lots of [influenza strain] B in the clinic, which is not the one that’s been causing all the deaths and terrible illnesses.”
Symptoms include headaches, dry coughs and body aches, different than those of a cold.
“The main difference between the common cold and the flu is that the flu comes on very suddenly. You’re fine two hours ago, then you’re not. Or you don’t feel sick, but then you’re very sick. And you’ll have typically severe body aches,” Tobon said.
In light of the recent flu outbreak, Aramark has been offering students recovery meals that are meant to help sick students recover from the illness, as well as keep others from getting sick. The meals normally consist of broth soup, a sandwich, fresh fruit and Gatorade, attempting to maximize hydration without upsetting the stomach.
“Jackie Bevilacqua … brought the idea to our attention and we thought it was a great way to help those who might not be well enough to dine with us,” said Charles Robles, food service director of Aramark. “The recovery meal is a great way to help take care of students who really need to rest and avoid being in the community because they might be contagious.”
To receive a recovery meal, students must be diagnosed with the flu by health services first.
“If they have a letter from us that says that they shouldn’t leave their room, and they let us know, then we will be in touch with somebody from the dining hall who can arrange for them to get one of those meals,” said Jackie Bevilacqua, coordinator of health services. “[The meal] can be picked up by a friend to take back to their room.”
The novelty of this program has caused some miscommunication and a general lack of awareness of its availability.
“The nurses told me that Mabee offered sick meals and that I could have someone pick them up for me,” said Cooper Cooke, a first-year student who had the flu. “They didn’t tell me what I needed to do in order to have these meals prepared for me though, and I really didn’t have the motivation to figure any of it out.”
Cooke explained that another reason he didn’t take advantage of the recovery meals was because the sickness caused a loss of appetite, and he didn’t crave food from Mabee.
“I wasn’t really feeling like eating anything but saltines so I didn’t really need [the meals],” Cooke said.
Mabee and health services are attempting increase awareness of the option in the hopes of continuing to minimize the spread of the flu and other contagious illnesses. Those who have the flu and are interested in this option can stop by health services during business hours.