Health center: Do not underestimate the flu

It’s flu season, and that means it’s time for people to get their annual flu shots. While this season has been going on for some time now, and many people have already gotten their shots, with the cold weather upon us, it’s more important than ever to get a flu shot if you haven’t got one already. According to Tammy Marti at the Loras Health Center, the flu vaccine wears off over time and is meant to be gotten every year. Additionally, there are many strains of the flu virus, and the flu shots each year are created based on research into what the most common strains will be for the given year. This is due to the fact that the flu strains are able to mutate over time and build up resistance to the previous year’s vaccine. This year, most of the shots contain vaccines for four strains, even though many years only carry three.

According to Marti, there aren’t any planned sessions for flu shots on campus, seeing as they have already hosted four separate clinical events. However, shots can be obtained at a doctor’s office, or at most, if not all, local pharmacies such as Hartig or Walgreens. Many of these places are open late into the evening, allowing access after classes or work.  Students are encouraged to check with their insurance to see if it prefers for them to go to one place or another. In addition to getting the shot, there are several things that students can do to lower the risk of being exposed to the flu virus. The primary one is that students take good care of themselves: good hand washing, keeping frequently touched items like door handles and phones washed and wiped, not sharing food with other people, and other ways to minimize the spread of the viruses. Additionally, basic bodily maintenance such as getting enough sleep and proper nutrition can help the body to not be so susceptible to sickness. While there is still a chance that a person can catch the flu in spite of both basic heath and getting the shot, the symptoms are drastically reduced than if these things are ignored.

While it may be tempting to dismiss the flu as nothing more significant than a cold, the two can behave very differently. While colds may start gradually and symptoms vary over time, thus sometimes allowing a person with a cold to remain largely functional, the flu starts all at once within an hour of getting sick, with intense headaches, body aches, fevers, chills, a dry cough, and a runny nose. These symptoms will generally last up to a week, spelling big trouble for students who suddenly have to miss a week of classes. Even worse, it’s possible for a person to catch multiple strains of the flu, one after another, taking them out for multiple weeks in the process. According to the CDC, last year the 2017-2018 flu season began to increase in November and hit a period of high activity in January and February, remaining elevated until the end of March. Additionally, while the CDC doesn’t list the exact number of deaths, the national mortality rate recorded approximately 10.0% on average deaths during this period of time, and it had influenza as their underlying cause. While such statistics are not yet available for this current season, if it holds any comparison to the last one, the number of cases could start ramping up within the next few weeks and students are again strongly encouraged to get flu shots to avoid suffering the consequences of this illness.

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