Students Return to Dorm Life and Flu Risks

Updated: 01/22/2013 7:55 AM By: Tim Sherno

Thousands of students are returning from winter creak and heading back to life in the dorms. Dr. Ian Kenning from Health Partners says dorm rooms are ideal for transmission of the flu virus. "If you're unlucky enough to have a roommate who has influenza, or influenza like illness, it's highly likely you're going to get exposed," he said.

Dr. Kenning says coughing or sneezing, which disperses the flu virus in large droplets of saliva or mucus, spreads flu. The large droplets, according to Kenning, typically travel up to 6 feet, "…so that 6 feet radius is basically your room. So if your room mate is hacking away, they're kind of spreading that around and it's a good chance you're going to be down stream."

The Centers for Disease Control and the Minnesota Department of Health recommend cleaning common surfaces with a sanitizing wipe. Dr. Kenning says clean anything you touch. "Certainly if you're sharing keyboards, desk space, remote controls, those things that hands are touching frequently, you can wipe them down," he says.

Dr. Kenning says students may want to keep a careful eye on their roommate, "If that person comes in looking pretty sick, while they're still spiking fevers, having a lot of respiratory symptoms, they're pretty contagious, good chance you're going to get sick."

According to Dr. Kenning, getting a flu shot is the foundation of a good preventative strategy, along with washing hands regularly with soap and water or hand sanitizer, maintain healthy sleep and diet, and finally wiping down surfaces with a sanitizing towel.