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Know the differences between food poisoning and the stomach flu

by Carly Marsh, Production Editor

Senior Jeff “Rubes” Feliciana ate out at a local McDonalds last week and then went to his night class but “had to leave halfway [through class] and promptly threw up on the way back to [his] dorm,” he explained.

Occurrences like this have been common on campus with the changing of the seasons from summer to fall and with flu season beginning. Last week there were rumors of large-scale food poisoning from the cafeteria and The Shack.

“There is not an outbreak of food borne illness on our campus,” Wellness Center Director Mary Alice Armour explained, “the wellness center has seen a number of students with gastroenteritis.”

Gastroenteritis, more commonly referred to as the stomach flu, has similar symptoms to food borne illnesses. Symptoms of gastroenteritis include nausea, vomiting, stomach cramps, diarrhea and occasionally, fever. These symptoms often mimic those of a food borne illness.

According to Web MD, a resource provided by the Wellness Center, symptoms are most likely not caused by a food borne illness unless one begins to feel sick before finishing a meal. The main causes of food borne illnesses are foods that are consumed raw or improperly prepared.

The main bacteria and toxins that cause food borne illnesses are Campylobacter, Salmonella,Shigella, E. coli 0157: H7, Listeria, and botulism. Web MD considers several foods at high risk for causing food borne illnesses: dairy, raw seafood, raw eggs, lunchmeat, undercooked meat, and poultry.

If you have gone out to eat at a restaurant with a group of friends or if you know of others who have eaten the same exact meal on campus and you all share symptoms of food borne illness, chances are you may have one. If not, chances are that you either ate too quickly, or you are experiencing food intolerance or an irritation of your gastrointestinal tract, meaning that your body and your dinner did not get along.

If you experience the symptoms of the stomach flu/food borne illness, you should try to make a visit to the Wellness Center to get the best advice on how to get well soon.

Feliciana got better “the old fashioned way: water and ginger ale. [He] was better in a day,” he said. You, like Feliciana, can also use home remedies to relieve yourself. Stay hydrated by limiting your diet to water and clear liquids such as clear sodas and soup broths, and take acetaminophen to relieve a fever if you have one.

If you have severe abdominal pain or if your symptoms have lasted more than three days, it is advised that you make a stop at the Wellness Center or your family physician at the top of your priorities.

You can take simple precautions to avoid getting a food borne illness and the stomach flu.

Be sure to wash your hands thoroughly after using the restroom, before and after cooking/preparing food, and before/after eating. Be sure to keep an eye on your drink at all times, as well as not to share drinks, silverware, toothbrushes, or cosmetics such as Chap Stick.

Be sure to check that the food you are preparing/consuming is safe. If the can your soup is in is dented or bulging, throw it out, as it most likely contains botulism. If your chicken is still pink inside, cook it longer or don’t eat it and risk being infected with Salmonella.

Be sure to get your flu shot. If you missed the vaccine clinic on campus and would still like to get yours, visit the local Walgreens, near Sharky’s, where the vaccine is available for approximately twenty dollars.


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