STORY BY GRACE ROGERS
Enterovirus D68 is an illness that has now been confirmed in 12 states across the country, including Iowa. Drake University is preparing for the possibility it may come to campus and administrative officials have precautions in place to keep sicknesses from spreading.
“Whenever there becomes a public outbreak or public notice on any kind of virus, it’s concerning because we don’t want people to get sick,” said Mindy Murphy, an operations manager for Sodexo. “But also we know there’s so many different measures that we can take.”
When there is concern about sicknesses on campus, Sodexo takes extra precautions.
“During the flu and cold season, we really hammer it home,” Murphy said. “If you feel like you’ve washed your hands too many times, you probably need to go wash them again.”
Dr. Edward Bell, a clinical sciences professor specializing in pediatrics, said this is exactly the right thing to do.
“It’s almost impossible not to be exposed especially with a lot of people around like on campus,” Bell said. “You open a door, someone could have been sick and touched the door just before you. Then you feel tired, wipe your eyes, rub your nose and the virus is in you. Washing your hands frequently is the best thing you can do.”
Symptoms of the D68 virus include fever, runny nose, sneezing, cough and body and muscle aches. Severe cases can include wheezing and other respiratory difficulties. Patients who experience the severe symptoms typically have a history of asthma or wheezing.
If students believe they have D68 or other illnesses, there is already a course of action they can take on campus.
“We provide an array of services,” said Janet Fink, an advanced registered nurse practitioner at the Drake Health Center. “We aren’t doing any testing, and even the hospitals aren’t really testing for Enterovirus, but we’ve seen similar symptoms that would mimic that potentially. There’s been a lot of colds and upper respiratory (infections] going around.”
There is no official treatment for D68. A vaccine could be developed for the illness, but the number of cases is relatively low. For now, students are encouraged to wash their hands frequently and make sure they stay generally healthy by getting plenty of rest and eating well. However, if students believe they have the virus, they are encouraged to take action.
“They can do over the counter medications, but if they’re really feeling short of breath or having more respiratory difficulty, they need to be seen at the clinic,” Fink said.
Breathing difficulty is the main problem that causes patients to be hospitalized.
Drake also has food safety measures in place to make sure sick students do not spread their illness in the dining halls.
“One other thing that students should know is that if someone starts feeling sick and they don’t want to come to the dining hall, we’ve got our sick tray form,” Murphy said. “So, say you’ve got the flu, you’re not feeling up to it, you don’t want to come in. There’s a form that you can print out, fill out your choices, and give to your resident assistant or a friend to bring to us so we can fill the order, then bring the food back to the room for them so they don’t have to come to the dining hall if they don’t want to.”
Sodexo’s tray service is available on their website, drake.sodexomyway.com, and students can contact the health center by calling 515-271-3731. Both services are free.