By Allison Milton/The AS Review

School is back in session and you know what that means. It doesn’t just mean spending long hours in the library doing your homework or making new friends; it means that it’s flu season and there is a slight possibility that not everyone was taught to cover their mouth when they cough before they arrived at Western. Hopefully, you’ve been taught the basics of flu prevention, such as washing your hands frequently and avoiding contact with sick people but there are some things that you might have not thought of.

As the arrows that track swine flu outbreaks on GoogleMaps encroach on the Pacific Northwest, now is the time to prepare yourself.

Here are a few things you can do to lessen your chance of catching the flu:
• Invest in a bottle of hand sanitizer and take it everywhere with you. Use it after you touch anything: computer keyboards, doorknobs, etc.
• Avoid crowded places. That’s not to say you should drop all your plans and stay put at home but you should be mindful when you’re in close proximity with people.
• Carry around some tissues and be a humanitarian. If you hear someone sneeze, hand them a tissue and flash them a smile. You’re not only stopping the spread of germs but you might even make their day.
• Stay in contact with your professors if you are feeling sick. You can work something out with them so you do not fall behind in class if you need to stay home.
• Do not touch your eyes, nose or mouth unless it is necessary (this might include eating, scratching your nose or applying eye liner).
• Stay home if you are feeling sick. While this isn’t something that you can do to prevent the flu (because chances are you have already come down with something), just because you’re sick doesn’t mean your classmates have to be.

If you are interested in getting a flu shot, the H1N1 vaccine should be available for students starting in October.
So, let’s say you have flu-like symptoms. What do you do now? Western Student Health Center Medical Director Emily Gibson said faculty have agreed to give students who are experiencing flu-like symptoms time to recover. Students will be allowed to miss seven consecutive days of classes and are not allowed back until they are recovered and have been off medication for at least 24 hours.

If you live on campus and become ill you will need to contact your Resident Advisor or your dorm’s front desk so that they can bring you your food to prevent you from going to the dining hall to eat.

Remember that if you are experiencing flu-like symptoms or have a fever, it is important to stay home from class. You do not need to go to the Health Center if you are showing signs of the flu and you do not need a doctor’s note to miss class but you will need to contact your professor.

For up-to-date information in the coming months regarding the flu at Western, visit the Student Health Center’s blog at: www.wwu.edu/chw/student_health/.
Stay healthy, Western!