What happens when a Stanford student gets sick?

Dr. Ira Friedman
Dr. Ira Friedman

This year is shaping up to be an especially severe flu season in California as a whole, but, fortunately, not at Stanford so far. Dr. Ira Friedman, director of Vaden Health Center, talks about the challenges of dealing with flu and other communicable illnesses at Stanford.

How is the flu season at Stanford at this point?

We’re having a moderate flu season so far on campus this year. Vaden’s medical practice has seen many students with flu symptoms, at a rate consistent with previous years. Nearly all our positive tests for influenza are the 2009 H1N1 type. That’s consistent with the regional and national pattern. What is good news, and somewhat unusual, is that we have not been hit as hard as some parts of the surrounding community. This academic year, Vaden and the university administered a record number of free flu shots, which contained the H1N1 type. Maybe that played a role, but it’s hard to tell.

What happens when a Stanford student living in the residences becomes ill? Who knows and what services does the university provide?

The residential staff, including peer health educators and residence deans, keeps tabs on who is ill. Clusters of illness are rapidly reported to me for possible environmental intervention. Information about self-care and hygiene and prevention is distributed. Students who are bedridden can have their meal trays delivered by dining services.

What does the university do to try to diminish the chance of widespread illnesses in the residences?

Early warning and prevention education are the keys across the board. We have an active free flu shot program. If a student has missed it, it’s not too late. You can advise your student to call the advice nurse at Vaden to schedule a vaccine appointment.

What can parents do to help their children avoid illness while at college?

Students value the information, advice and support they get from their parents. In addition to encouraging flu shots, parents should continue to advise appropriate sleep, nutrition, hydration and exercise.

For more, visit the Vaden Health Center website.