The number of reported flu cases has spiked this winter across the country, with the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reporting more than 22,000 between September 30 and December 31. That amounts to 26 times the number of flu cases reported during the same period in 2011.
Seasonal flu activity can be unpredictable, lasting as long as May—offering several more months for the virus to potentially spread. Reports by vaccine manufacturers to the CDC indicate that though 145 million doses have been produced, the vaccine may still be hard to come by given the increased demand.
Fortunately for Illinois State students, Student Health Services (SHS) offers a convenient solution for vaccinations and treatment of the flu, in addition to other services.
“The more people who get the flu shot, the fewer instances of the flu we have on campus,” said Laura Manley Knoblauch, Student Health Services director. “With students living and studying in such close proximity to one another, influenza can spread rapidly. We do encourage students and staff to get the flu shot.”
This academic year SHS staff members have administered approximately 2,500 vaccines and have placed orders for more, as demand continues to grow. Knoblauch noted that with national demand increasing, the vaccine is becoming more difficult to get, but SHS is working diligently to ensure students, faculty, and staff are able to obtain the vaccine.
SHS manages a high volume of appointments, with more than 200 patients visiting the clinic each weekday. Over the course of an academic year, the board certified medical staff provides medical services for approximately 36,000 patient visits. And even though the Bloomington-Normal community is home to several clinics and two major hospitals, it is unlikely they could easily absorb the 20,000 patients the University potentially provides—especially when many of these students are navigating the healthcare system alone for the first time.
“We spend extra time with students, said Knoblauch. “They are away from home and this could be a first appointment alone or their first time having a specific medical condition. Our staff explains the condition and treatment to try to put them at ease. We work hard to make our appointment system convenient and user friendly while teaching students how to navigate the healthcare system.”
SHS has been accredited by the Accreditation Association for Ambulatory Healthcare since 1988.
Among the comprehensive services offered to students are medical examinations for acute and routine illnesses, X-rays, women’s health, nurse consult, immunizations, a laboratory for general diagnostic tests, and a full service pharmacy. SHS even partners with the School of Kinesiology and Recreation by referring students with sports-related injuries to the Sports Medicine And Rehabilitation Therapy (SMART) Clinic, where they can receive rehabilitation services, with follow-up provided by a licensed physician in SHS.
Having so many medical services available to students ensures that they are able to spend their time in class rather than a waiting room across town.
“The goal of Student Health Services is to make sure students are at their optimal health or to return them to their optimal health so they can be successful in the classroom,” Knoblauch said. “That’s how our focus is different from other clinics. We strive to provide the best medical services to the students at Illinois State University.”
Steven Barcus can be reached at srbarcu@IllinoisState.edu.