Student Health recommends flu shots

Students are advised to keep healthy habits as the semester comes to an end.

Van Orman encourages students to maintain hand hygiene, wear masks and test for coronavirus before and after the Thanksgiving and winter break period. Student Health expects a rise of influenza cases this week. (Isaac Mora)

Finals week and winter recess come along with their own set of stressors, but students should continue to prioritize their physical health and maintain healthy habits, said Chief Student Health Officer Dr. Sarah Van Orman in a briefing with the Daily Trojan Tuesday morning.

Managing workload and making time for self care are important in achieving the recommended eight hours of sleep — the most important habit, Van Orman said. She encouraged students to avoid staying up late during this busy period.

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“[Another] thing I remind people is to … maintain some of the habits they might have, like exercise … [which] can also actually help with focus,” Van Orman said. “Even if you normally go to the gym for an hour or two, but you don’t have time for that, taking a 20- or 30-minute walk [allows you to] … continue to have some level of physical activity.”

High levels of stress and fatigue also make individuals more susceptible to viruses, which people are more prone to during this time of the year. These factors combined with environmental conditions put students at risk of contracting an upper respiratory virus. Van Orman said students should get a flu shot through Student Health if they have not received one yet.

Student Health anticipates a rise of influenza cases this week and saw an increase in the week prior to Thanksgiving break based on wastewater surveillance of on-campus housing facilities. Students have also been testing positive for influenza. Symptoms of fever and severe body aches worsen in those who are unvaccinated.

“[Influenza] is often very difficult to function [with] unlike a more typical cold virus,” Van Orman said. “People are often pretty under the weather with influenza, so if you do get those symptoms, of course we can see you at Student Health.”

Environmental conditions, stress and fatigue can make students more prone to contracting upper respiratory viruses, like the common cold. Chief Student Health Officer Dr. Sarah Van Orman recommends that students should get a flu shot through Student Health, in addition to using winter break to catch up on health and dental check-ups. (Emma Silverstein / Daily Trojan)

Van Orman also recommended students to practice good hand hygiene, wear masks in crowded areas and test for coronavirus before and after travel over winter break. 

The break period is a time to recharge and reset, Van Orman said. She encouraged students to get caught up on regular health and dental checkups. It is also a good time for students who felt too busy or overwhelmed during the semester to find ways to manage their anxiety, depression or mood concerns. 

Unique stresses that arise with going back home after being away for an extended period of time are also worth considering as students get ready for break. Students who have been living independently may find it challenging to renegotiate their boundaries with parents and family members. 

“Returning back [home] and seeing friends that you haven’t seen in a while can be really exciting and fun, but also [there] can be stresses … associated with that,” Van Orman said. “I think just recognizing all of that as normal [and] thinking about how you can have those conversations with your parents [about space].”

At Conquest, Van Orman accepted the Heartsaver Hero Award from the American Heart Association for the Trojan Family. The award recognizes life-saving actions by people on campus and the University’s commitment to creating a community able to respond to emergency situations. 

“In particular, we’ve had this ongoing initiative this fall with the Hands-only CPR [training],” Van Orman said. “The award was really the recognition at USC that we’ve had so many initiatives to really help students and faculty and staff become a community where everyone feels comfortable responding to someone who may have had a sudden cardiac event.”

During Conquest, almost 1,000 students were trained in CPR and 537 people were trained Nov. 18 during tailgates on gameday. Since the beginning of the Trojan Heart Heroes program in partnership with the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, 1,920 people have completed Hands-only CPR training through USC. 

“We know that USC is really a standard bearer for our community, so many people look up to USC,” Van Orman said. “It’s not just about what we can do in our campus, but it’s also about how we can spread the word in our communities within Los Angeles [and] within our own families about the importance of [CPR training] … [and] what everyone could do to help change the outcome for someone who experiences a sudden cardiac event.”

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