Category Archives: Health Conditions

Stomach bug/stomach flu (Norovirus)

norovirus-symptoms-259x300Ever had nausea, vomiting, and/or diarrhea that came on you quick and ran through you like a mack truck?  Ever feel like throwing up and at the very same time having to sit on the toilet? (gross, but true…)  Then you have probably experienced a “stomach bug” or “stomach flu” or maybe even thought you had “food poisoning”–all these phrases usually point to a the true culprit, Norovirus.

Norovirus is a nasty virus that is responsible for wreaking havoc on day care kids, college students, and even cruise line passengers around the world.  It causes rapid illness with severe nausea, what seems like never ending vomiting, diarrhea (sometimes explosive….ugh), headache, fever/chills, and abdominal pain/cramping.  Although sometimes called a “stomach flu”, it has no relation to influenza or the seasonal flu.  It is spread easily, with the virus particles living on contaminated surfaces for days and maybe even weeks (eww…) So…..bad news first.

Bad news:  We are seeing an increase in cases right now at SHS.  Norovirus spreads easily, especially in close quarters (i.e. pretty much every college environment).  It hits incredibly hard, and while it does not last long, it can take you a while to get your strength and food tolerance back.  Evidence shows alcohol based hand sanitizers are not effective against norovirus–but soap and water hand washing is.  Also bleach based solutions help disinfect, but those are not as easy to use on all types of surfaces.

Good news: While you may feel like it is never going to end when you are the one going through it, it actually usually moves out quick: most people recover in 1-3 days.  It is a virus, so there is no magic cure.  Most cases can be managed at home, with the right tools (see below), but if you are not improving or you cannot stay properly hydrated, we may need to intervene with IV fluids.

HOW TO TREAT IF YOU ARE SICK: The most important issue is hydration.  You lose a lot of fluids through vomiting, diarrhea, and fever.  While you may be scared to drink when you are vomiting or running to the bathroom so often, it is important to incorporate small amounts frequently to stay on top of your fluid balance.  You do absorb some fluids even if you are continuing to visit the bathroom often.  Use sports drinks, clear sodas (think Sprite, Ginger Ale, 7 Up), water, ice chips, clear broth soups–avoid dairy, alcohol or caffeine.  You can take over the counter medications for fever/aches (Tylenol or ibuprofen/Motrin) and nausea (sometimes they are boxed as motion sickness tablets)–if you need to stock up, come see our pharmacy.  Rest.  Clean contaminated surfaces with a diluted bleach solution (5 to 25 tbsp bleach per gallon of water).  WASH YOUR HANDS–you shed the virus in vomit and diarrhea.  Once you feel human again, start your stomach back on a bland diet–nothing spicy, greasy, or dairy–good starter items are crackers, clear soups, toast, applesauce, bananas, plain baked potatoes.  Take it slow until you can tolerate more foods.

Prevention:  WASH YOUR HANDS.  We can not say it enough.  Wash your produce well too when preparing food and cook items properly (norovirus can be spread through a sick person handling food).  Try to avoid sick persons if you can and wipe down used surfaces with the bleach solution mentioned above.  And again, WASH YOUR HANDS.

If you are sick and need advice, or if you have questions, call us at 252-328-6841 or email us at gotquestions@ecu.edu.  If you have been treating yourself and you are not getting any better, not able to hold down fluids, are not peeing regularly (a sign of hydration) or are having severe abdominal pain, you may need care by a health care provider.  Call us.  Sometimes IV fluids are necessary to help you.

oh, and WASH YOUR HANDS.

Source and more information:  CDC Norovirus Overview

 

Has the flu gotten you?

Flu activity is high in North Carolina and we are seeing an increase of cases here at Student Health.  Patients with routine appointments (Pap smears, annual women’s health exams, physicals, etc) should consider rescheduling their appointments to avoid contacting sick persons in the Health Center.

Signs of the flu:  sudden onset of fever, body aches, fatigue, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, headache.  Rarely it can cause diarrhea or vomiting, but influenza and the “stomach flu” are NOT the same thing.  Flu makes you feel horrible, fast. Like hit by a truck horrible.

***If you think you have the flu, call us at 252-328-6841 before coming to SHS or making an appointment.  Often an appointment is not necessary as the nurses can give you advice on treating your symptoms at home.  This helps keep other students healthy as well by limiting sick patient in our lobby.***

What to do if you are sick:  stay away from others until you have been fever-free for 24 hrs without having to take fever reducing medication.  Take ibuprofen/tylenol for aches and fever, drink a lot of fluids, rest, and cover your sneezes and coughs with a tissue that you throw away. WASH YOUR HANDS.  Are you high risk for flu complications?  Read this and if it applies, call us at 252-328-6841.

  • Do you need a friend to pick up food for you at the dining hall?  You can fill out this form and let your buddy grab you something to eat.
  • Do you need to let your professors know you are sick?  Log onto Onestop and use the “Flu Self Reporting Form”.  Be advised:  this is NOT an excuse.  But, it lets your professors know you are ill and they may work with you on missed work.

What to do if your roommate or someone you love is sickhttp://www.flu.gov/symptoms-treatment/caring-for-someone/index.html

If you aren’t sick, here are a few things to do to try to avoid the flu:

  • get a flu shot–although the best time to get vaccinated is early fall, it is not too late.  We still have shots available here at Student Health–come get one today.  Call us at 252-328-6841 to schedule a time.
  • Avoid sick people–if your friend says they don’t feel well, maybe you should cancel that study session or lunch date.
  • Don’t eat, drink, or smoke after others.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth–we don’t realize how much we introduce germs into our system just by our habits.
  • Wash your hands more than you think is necessary.  Also, alcohol based sanitizers do work against flu, so get a bottle to keep in your bag.
  • Surfaces are gross!  Doorknobs, chair rails, keyboards, money, pens, phones, etc all can harbor flu virus particles.  Remember to clean your hands often especially after touching items others have used.

A few FAQ:

  • Does SHS test for flu?
    Yes, we can.  It is done by swabbing nasal secretions and costs $32.  But, in many cases, it is not helpful since the treatment for flu is based on symptoms, not test results, so your treatment is the same whether the test is negative or positive.  The test is not perfect either, so it may not be entirely accurate.
  • Should I see a doctor?
    In most cases, if you are healthy and have no underlying major medical issues like asthma, pregnancy, diabetes, HIV, heart conditions, cancer, etc, you do not need to see a health care provider since flu typically resolves on its own.  However, if you have severe symptoms or feel that you are not improving, you need to call your doctor or if you have an emergency, call 911.
  • If I have flu, do I need Tamiflu (antiviral medication)?
    Maybe.  Learn more here.  If you have a severe case, or are at high risk for complications, then your doctor will probably prescribe an anti-viral if you are early in the course of illness.  Antiviral medication does not cure the flu but may shorten the duration of symptoms or help prevent complications.  Talk with your health care provider about antiviral options.
  • If someone close to me has the flu but I do not have any symptoms, can I get Tamiflu as a precaution?
    SHS, in accordance with CDC guidelines, does not recommend Tamiflu in healthy persons with no flu symptoms.

Still have more flu related questions?  Email us at fluquestions@ecu.edu

Also, don’t forget: anytime we are not open, you always have the 24hr nurseline available to you for medical advice.  Call our main number, 252-328-6841, and listen to the instructions for speaking with a nurse.

Student Health continually monitors the flu situation.  Look to www.ecu.edu/studenthealth for updates and please follow us on Twitter (@ECU_SHS) for the most up to date information for campus!

Sources & web links for even more flu information:

Flu.Gov                 http://www.flu.gov/
CDC                       http://www.cdc.gov/flu/

Chikungunya…..funny name, not so funny virus….

keepcalminsectrepellentHearing about chikungunya virus yet?  Well, you probably will soon–a case has been confirmed in Pitt County.  The virus is mosquito borne, and causes aches, joint pain, fever and rash.  There is no treatment but you can take over the counter pain medications to help symptoms.  Most people feel better in a few days, but for some, the joint pain persists longer.  Want more information?  Visit http://www.cdc.gov/chikungunya/

 

EBOLA! (The facts, not the hype)

ebola_suitEbolaebola1

Everywhere you look, Ebola is on the news. Scary images of dying, bleeding West Africans are overplayed alongside scenes of medical personnel in space suit-looking isolation gear.  Movies like “Outbreak”, “28 Days Later”, and “Contagion” heighten our fears of a rapid, global hemorrhagic disease. We have brought back several Americans who are infected to be treated in Atlanta and Nebraska hospitals and we have had several health care workers  infected.  Does that mean we should all be worried? Is this something that will spread across the U.S.?

First of all, don’t panic. The media has helped increase fear by making Ebola the lead story every night.  Yes, it is a serious disease that causes vomiting, fever, bleeding, and often, death. However, there is a lot about Ebola though that is left out of the sensational news stories. As a public consumer of information, knowing the facts often makes a frightening issue a lot less terrifying.

Here is what you need to know….

Ebola IS:

  • a virus
  • spread through contact with the body fluids (blood, secretions, semen) of someone that is ill with or has died from Ebola,  or from an animal infected with Ebola (chimps, gorillas, fruit bats, monkeys, forest antelopes, porcupines)
  • almost exclusively limited to West Africa at this time, primarily Sierra Leone, Guinea, and Liberia.  Nigeria was recently declared “Ebola free”.   Several cases have occurred in US health care workers but there is no widespread risk or outbreak outside of West Africa.
  • very serious, particularly to people with severe nutritional deficits, lack of access to clean water, and those without medical care
  • able to be spread after death, so often the virus is transmitted during burial rituals in local African tribal communities

Ebola IS NOT:

  • a new disease (it was first identified in 1976); multiple outbreaks have occurred in Africa over the years
  • spread through air, water, or contaminated food
  • able to be prevented by vaccination nor is there a cure; infected persons are given supportive treatment with IV fluids, oxygen therapy, and other interventions
  • being readily transmitted in the U.S.. Several health care workers have been diagnosed, but we have also successfully cared for other Ebola patients in this country without incident.  So far, the US health care workers have all responded well to treatment.
  • a risk to the general American public
  • something you can catch from being in an airplane, attending class, or living in a residence hall with someone who may have traveled to an affected area

Infectious disease experts are continually monitoring the latest information and feel very confident that a large scale outbreak that affects the United States is highly unlikely.  Ebola is not easy to get, and with our sophisticated medical care and ability to identify and isolate cases, our public health system is prepping to respond and contain to prevent any further spread.  We have already seen several hospitals receive patients successfully, and many others are performing drills, practicing policy and preparing general readiness plans.

The entire UNC campus system is in constant communication with infectious disease experts from NC Public Health and CDC.  All campuses are sharing information and are getting prepared should any further action be needed.  ECU is having regular meetings with a team of campus staff members that would be involved in any major health issue.  This team reviews the latest information and will keep the university community informed with any updates of interest or any news that impacts our campus.  Visit the special Ebola information page of ECU Alert:  http://www.ecu.edu/cs-ecu/alert/University-Response-to-Concerns-of-Ebola-Outbreak.cfm

Want to read more?  Use reputable health care sites and news agencies that report facts, not those that try to drum up viewers with scary sensational stories.  Here are a few articles and sites we like:
Ebola 101: The Facts Behind a Frightening Virus
CDC Ebola Info
WHO Ebola Virus Disease

Have you traveled to an affected area or know someone who has?  Read this: Information from the NC Department of Health and Human Services

Still have questions?  Concerns?  Students can contact us at ECU Student Health Services, (252) 328-6841 or by emailing us at gotquestions@ecu.edu.  Faculty/staff should contact the Office of Prospective Health, (252) 744-2070.

FLU, FLU, FLU!!!

sneezeFlu is here!

Activity is now high in North Carolina and we are seeing an increase of cases here at Student Health.

Signs of the flu:  sudden onset of fever, body aches, fatigue, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, headache.  Rarely it can cause diarrhea or vomiting, but influenza and the “stomach flu” are NOT the same thing.  Flu makes you feel horrible, fast.   Like hit by a truck horrible.

What to do if you are sick:  stay away from others until you have been fever-free for 24 hrs without having to take fever reducing medication.  Take ibuprofen/tylenol for aches and fever, drink a lot of fluids, rest, and cover your sneezes and coughs with a tissue that you throw away. WASH YOUR HANDS.  Are you high risk for flu complications?  Read this and if applies, call us at 328-6841.

  • Do you need a friend to pick up food for you at the dining hall?  You can fill out this form and let your buddy grab you something to eat.
  • Do you need to let your professors know you are sick?  Log onto Onestop and use the “Flu Self Reporting Form”.  Be advised:  this is NOT an excuse.  But, it lets your professors know you are ill and they may work with you on missed work.

What to do if your roommate or someone you love is sickhttp://www.flu.gov/symptoms-treatment/caring-for-someone/index.html

If you aren’t sick, here are a few things to do to try to avoid the flu:

  • get a flu shot–although the best time to get vaccinated is early fall, it is not too late.  Student Health gave out of our supply in the fall, but you can go to any retail pharmacy (Target, Walgreens, CVS, RiteAid, etc) or check with the health department.
  • Avoid sick people–if your friend says they don’t feel well, maybe you should cancel that study session or lunch date.
  • Don’t eat, drink, or smoke after others.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth–we don’t realize how much we introduce germs into our system just by our habits.
  • Wash your hands way more than you think is necessary.  Also, alcohol based sanitizers do work against flu, so get you a bottle to keep in your bag.
  • Surfaces are gross–doorknobs, chair rails, keyboards, money, pens, phones, etc all can harbor flu virus particles.  Remember to clean your hands often especially after touching items others have used.

A few FAQ:

  • Does SHS test for flu?
    Yes, we can.  It is done by swabbing nasal secretions and costs $32.  But, in many cases, it is not helpful since the treatment for flu is based on symptoms, not test results, so your treatment is the same whether the test is negative or positive.
  • Should I see a doctor?
    In most cases, if you are healthy and have no underlying major medical issues like asthma, pregnancy, diabetes, HIV, heart conditions, cancer, etc, you do not need to see a health care provider since flu typically resolves on its own.  However, if you have severe symptoms or feel that you are not improving, you need to call your doctor or if you have an emergency, call 911.
  • If I have flu, do I need Tamiflu (antiviral medication)?
    Again, probably not.  Learn more here.  If you have a severe case, or are at high risk for complications, then your doctor will probably prescribe an anti-viral; however, low risk otherwise healthy people do not need prescription medication for flu.

Still have more flu related questions?  Email us at fluquestions@ecu.edu

Also, don’t forget: anytime we are not open, you always have the 24hr nurseline available to you for medical advice.  Call our main number, 328-6841, and listen to the instructions for speaking with a nurse.

Student Health continually monitors the flu situation.  Look to www.ecu.edu/studenthealth for updates and please follow us on Twitter (@ECU_SHS) for the most up to date information for campus!

 

Sources & web links for even more flu information:

Flu.Gov                 http://www.flu.gov/
CDC                       http://www.cdc.gov/flu/

Hot, Hot, Hot!

Greenville is getting ready to experience several days of 100+ temperatures.  Heat related illness is a concern in general in warm weather, but extreme temps up the ante when dealing with potential cases of heat stroke. 

Do you know the signs and symptoms of heat stroke or what to do if someone seems to be having heat related illness problems?  Visit the Mayo Clinic for info on heat stroke and how to prevent it, recognize it, & help someone before it is too late. 

Stay cool Pirates!