Wash those germs right off of your hands!

Have you ever considered the door knobs/handles in your dorm?  Think about it for a minute.  How many people live in your dorm?  All of those people are going in and out of the dorm, perhaps multiple times each day and every time they do they are touching those knobs/handles.  And then you come along and you touch that knob/handle.  You have just exposed yourself to the germs that were on the hands of everyone else who used that knob/handle – YUCK!

Now consider the door knobs/handles of your classrooms and buildings.  How many people are taking classes in those buildings?  Again, every time you touch that knob/handle you are exposing yourself to the germs that were on the hands of everyone else who used that knob/handle – again YUCK!

Is it any wonder that college students get sick?!!  The most effective thing you can do to avoid getting sick, according to the CDC, is to wash your hands.  Frequent washing will help to limit the transfer of bacteria, viruses, and other microbes. 

What is the right way to wash your hands?

  • Wet your hands with clean running water (warm or cold) and apply soap.
  • Rub your hands together to make a lather and scrub them well; be sure to scrub the backs of your hands, between your fingers, and under your nails.
  • Continue rubbing your hands for at least 20 seconds. Need a timer? Hum the “Happy Birthday” song from beginning to end twice.
  • Rinse your hands well under running water.
  • Dry your hands using a clean towel or air dry.

Don’t underestimate the power of hand washing! The few seconds you spend at the sink could save you trips to Student Health Services.

Submitted by Tina Comston, M.Ed.

Medical Mythbusters – Can you catch the flu from the flu vaccine?

Q: I’ve heard that you the flu shot can give you the flu.  Is that true?

A: Definitely not! This is one of the most pervasive and frustrating medical myths out there. The flu shot contains only dead virus so there is no way it can infect you.

It is possible that the shot can induce an immune response that gives you flu-like symptoms such as muscle aches or a low grade fever, but nothing compared to getting the actual flu.  If you do get the flu after a flu shot, it is likely that you were exposed to the flu or another illness before getting the shot, since it takes about 2 weeks after your shot for full immunity to develop. The flu vaccine doesn’t guarantee 100% protection; it is always possible to catch a strain of the flu not included in the vaccine.

Certain people who are at especially high risk of complications from the flu definitely need to get vaccinated every year, but the flu shot is available to anyone who wants to avoid getting the flu.

You can find information on getting the flu vaccine at OSU Student Health Services here.  

Angela Walker, Med IV (Ohio State College of Medicine)

John A. Vaughn, MD (Ohio State Student Health Services)

Reviewed by Tina Comston, M.Ed. (Ohio State Student Health Services)

Remembering the Pandemic Flu

photo: ehow.com


Get your vaccination

It was this time two years ago that we were bracing for the return of pandemic influenza to campus.  We had already dealt with cases in the spring.  Were we in for a “second wave”?  Everyone was asking:

  • “When are we getting the pandemic flu vaccine, and who should get it?”
  • “Should people get their ‘regular’ flu shot?”
  • “How disruptive would this be to classes, student activities, afternoons at the Shoe?”

We have since learned that we need to stay vigilant about influenza. Not just new strains, but even the seasonal flu, which causes:

  • more than 36,000 deaths every flu season, mostly in infants and the elderly
  • nearly a quarter of a million hospitalizations every year
  • millions of missed days at work or school

Influenza continues to plague us in an era when vaccinations have led to declines in many of the most deadly diseases in history.  Why?  Because influenza virus changes rapidly and often.  Many years we are challenged by new strains or ones we haven’t seen in a while so sometimes our flu season is worse than other years and this effects the strength of our seasonal vaccine.

So, what should you do about the flu???

  • Wash your hands
  • Get a flu vaccine once every fall
  • Avoid exposure to ill persons and avoid sharing your illness if you get sick
  • Maintain a good immune system by good diet and exercise
  • Wash your hands

Oh, did I say wash your hands twice?  Well, for good measure, once you are done surfing our blog on your laptop that two of your roommates borrowed when you were out, and is now sitting on your lap in a local coffee house, where your hands have come in contact with dozens of surfaces that can harbor virus particles, why don’t you go wash them a third time??!!!

Flu shots are available at Student Health now, and are just as effective early as they are late in protecting you this winter.  The price is reasonable, and the process is easy.  Watch our calendar for our big walk-in events, get a shot while you pick up medicines in our pharmacy, or call 614-292-4321 and schedule an appointment. 

Welcome back, and have a healthy year!

Roger Miller, MD
Student Health Services
The Ohio State University

I’ve never had this many colds. Is something wrong with me?


The Columbus Dispatch ran a special health section about colds and flu this weekend which included a number of fairly well-done pieces. I found a few informative bits myself, and am going to use this quote from local primary care provider Donna Donati, MD: “Colds spend four days coming, four days here, and four days going.” For those of you keeping score, that’s 12 days. I’d add a few days at the end, actually, for nasal congestion and cough to resolve completely.

It’s pretty typical for the average adult to have five or six colds through the course of cold and flu season, which, if you’re keeping score, means SIXTY-plus days of viral misery. In other words, two-plus months of snot does not necessarily mean you’re dying or have a “weak immune system” (a common complaint). It means you’re normal.

For more great information from the Dispatch on how to handle cold and flu season:

This year’s flu vaccine

How to wash your hands

Sick at work? Health experts say ‘Go home’.

Vitamins? Zinc? Soup? Everyone has a ‘cure’.

Fighting patients’ pleas for antibiotics

Your head says cold but your body says influenza

Can you jog when your nose runs?

Victoria Rentel, MD
Student Health Services
The Ohio State University

How well does the flu shot work?

Q: BuckMD, can you share some information of flu vaccine efficacy?

A: Thanks for your question.  Vaccine efficacy is measured in a number of ways. Depending on the organism, sometimes we can measure antibody or other immune response markers in the blood of vaccinated vs. unvaccinated people.  Sometimes, we compare clinical outcomes, such as death or hospitalization rates, or missed work or school days, in the two populations. 

With flu vaccine, most experts look at the level of a particular antibody (hemagglutination inhibition antibody, or HI) to say whether the vaccine gives enough response to protect a person against getting the flu.  Most of this year’s flu vaccines produce a protective level of these antibodies in 90% or more of human test subjects. 

However, this percentage is inflated somewhat due to pre-existing immunity.  If I get vaccinated against a particular strain this year, and it happens that I also was vaccinated against that strain 3 years ago, then I might have a higher antibody level than if not previously vaccinated. 

Looking more at how many people get sick as a measure of efficacy, the vaccines protect about 60-70% of those immunized. (Am. J. Epidemiol. (2008) 168 (12): 1343-1352. doi: 10.1093/aje/kwn259 First published online: October 29, 2008, accessed 11/2/10) These studies are much more difficult to perform. 

For more details, take a look at each vaccine’s package insert information at the FDA website:


For an intricate discussion of viruses, read:

Mandell: Mandell, Douglas, and Bennett’s Principles and Practice of Infectious Diseases, 7th ed., 2009.


Virology, in Microbiology and Immunology Online, University of South Carolina, 2009, http://pathmicro.med.sc.edu/mhunt/flu.htm, accessed 11/2/10.

Roger Miller, MD, OSU Student Health Services


Important FLU guidance from national organizations

 The snow is melting, finals are approaching, and then:   SPRING BREAK!!!

As you make your spring break plans, whether they involve a sunny beach or a ski slope, or perhaps just a restful time at home or with friends, BuckMD wants you to be safe and healthy.  The American College Health Association and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also want to remind you of the risk for H1N1 influenza.  Even though the number of cases is much less than in the spring and fall of 2009, there can still be exposures with travel and large grouping of people.  Please read this important joint statement for more information.

If you haven’t been vaccinated against H1N1 flu, it is not too late!  Vaccine is still available at Student Health, at many doctors’ offices around the community, and at through Columbus Public Health.  If you have questions, please call Student Health Services at 293-4321, or email us at: buckmd@studentlife.osu.edu

Roger Miller, MD for BuckMD

National Influenza Vaccination Week

In recognition of the conclusion of National Influenza Vaccination Week, BuckMD would like to remind all Buckeyes of the importance of preventive measures to reduce your risk of the flu and other infectious diseases.

CDC and Aetna Communications bring us “Smart Tips from Some Germ Experts”.  These kids really know their stuff!  Good tips for us to keep in mind, even after H1N1 is a distant memory.


 For more information, visit the CDC’s Immunization Action Coalition

Roger Miller MD, for BuckMD



Making the flu beautiful!

The Visual Miscellaneum

I recently stumbled across a blog called Information Is Beautiful.  It is written by a London (England, not Ohio unfortunately)-based “independent visual & data journalist” named David McCandless.  In his own words: A passion of mine is for visualizing information – facts, data, ideas, subjects, issues, statistics, questions – all with the minimum of words.  I’m interested in how designed information can help us understand the world, cut through BS and reveal hidden connections, patterns and stories underneath. Or, failing that, it can just look cool!

The reason I’m mentioning all of this on a health blog is that he has created a very cool and informative article about the H1N1 vaccine that presents the information in a visualized format.  I encourage you all to check it out – especially those of you who are more “visual” learners – and let me know what you think.  With all of the amazing resources on our campus, couldn’t we develop similar alternative information delivery systems here at Ohio State?

John A. Vaughn, MD (Ohio State Student Health Services)

Flu Vaccine (H1N1 and Seasonal) Update

As we near the end of the fall quarter, here are some updates on flu vaccine availability at Wilce:

Seasonal Vaccine

We will complete our seasonal flu vaccine outreach this Friday, November 20, with our final 2009 program in the SHS Pharmacy. Seasonal vaccine will still be available by appointment, at a cost of $36.

H1N1 vaccine

We continue moving through the priority tiers established by the Ohio Department of Health.  Beginning this week, students 24 years and under WITH CHRONIC MEDICAL CONDITIONS will be invited to H1N1 vaccine clinics.  If you are already signed up with the H1N1 telephone system, watch your inbox for more information.  If you have not signed up at 614-514-4161, please do so if you are interested in getting H1N1 vaccine. 

Please call 614-292-4321 or email us at shs@osu.edu if you have questions.


Why can’t I be seen right now!?


Ok, so you woke up this morning with a sore throat and a cough. You feel hot then cold.

You feel too crappy to go to class, and the cough drops and Dayquil aren’t cutting it.  Thoughts of flesh eating strep, H1N1, and rheumatic fever flash through your mind. You see yourself moaning in a hospital bed and on dialysis.

Aha! The Wilce Student Health Center! What a thought!  And you can get a note for missing class (and even better, that awful Spanish midterm)!

So you dial 292-4321 and wait. And wait. And wait. You put the phone on speaker and start doing the dishes. And wait. You use the bathroom.  And wait.  Oh, the Muzak is so awful.

What is taking so &%@# long!?  You don’t want to wait on hold forever only to be told there are no appointments left.  So what can you do to improve my chances of being seen at the Student Health Center on the same day!?

BE EARLY: Remember, the early bird gets the worm!  Our phones are open at 7:30 am, and we reserve a large block of same day appointments for sick students every day.  The earlier you call (before 10am is best), the better the chance that you’ll find an open spot that fits your schedule.  Unfortunately, you can’t count on coming in at 2 or 3 o’clock and getting an instant appointment.  By 3 pm the phones have been ringing for over 7 ½ hours with hundreds of sick students!

BE FLEXIBLE: We know your schedules are very hectic and often not under your control and we truly do everything we can to accommodate your needs.  We’re now open until 7pm Monday through Thursday (5pm on Fridays) as well as 9am-1pm on Saturdays when there’s no home football games.  But there will be times when our availability is limited and you may have to miss class to see a doctor.  Most professors are pretty understanding when it comes to the flu.

BE SPECIFIC: Have a thermometer on hand and be specific about your symptoms.  Don’t just call and say “I’m sick.”  Check out our website for flu information and the University’s flu website for instructions in dealing with missed classes.  There is just no way we can see every student who develops cold symptoms this time of year.  The guidelines on these websites are designed to let you know when you need to be evaluated by a health care provider and when it’s OK to try some things at home first.  but when in doubt, give us a call.  

BE PATIENT:  Thanks to H1N1, we are in the midst of an extremely busy flu season.  We are being inundated with hundreds of students who are calling or walking into the Health Center every day and while we are doing our best to meet their needs, we realize that some of them are going to have a less than great experience.  But hurling every four letter word you can think of at us won’t help.  We do value your feedback, but please remember that there are appropriate ways for you to give it.  You can fill out the patient comment forms near the main entrance of our building, or speak to our Patient Advocate.

We hope that you won’t need to see us this winter, but if you do, rest assured that we’ll do our best to make it as positive experience as possible for you!

Jonda Hapner-Yengo, RN (Student Health Services)