Along with cooler temperatures and shorter days, the fall season brings runny noses, sneezing and bouts of coughing to campus. The annual flu season is approaching, and Campus Health Services is taking steps to prepare the University for this year’s strain of flu.
“It’s been a mild start so far at Campus Health Services. We haven’t been bombarded with tons of cases at this time,” Dr. Thevy Chai, a CHS physician specializing in student health and infection control, said. “That is pretty typical for October. November flu season usually peaks around January or February.”
While the peak of the season is still a few months away, CHS has been taking steps to ensure students and staff are prepared well in advance. The flu vaccine takes approximately two weeks to reach full effectiveness Dr. Chai said, so the sooner one gets the vaccine, the better.
Most of the steps being taken come in the form of a campus-wide information push.
“We always do kind of a flu campaign where we put out informational materials on our website and through our ActiviTV screens in our building and the Student Union,” said Michelle Camarena, CHS nursing supervisor. “The best thing we can do is get basic information out and tell people to get a flu shot.”
Students can get the vaccine three different ways: make an appointment with the immunization clinic, ask for it when visiting CHS or on as walk-in basis at the pharmacies in the CHS building and Student Stores, Camarena said.
By getting the vaccine, students are doing their part in keeping the entire community safe, Dr. Chai said. Many students and community members are unable to get the vaccine, but those vaccinated lower the chances of the virus spreading to those who do not.
For those unable to get the vaccine, there are steps that can be taken to avoid contracting the virus, said Allison Aiello, a professor of epidemiology at the Gillings School of Global Public Health who researches non-pharmaceutical interventions for flu. These methods include proper hand-washing or using hand sanitizer if sinks are not available, using a basic face mask and avoiding anyone who may be infected.
It is also a good idea for students to think ahead and prepare for the chance they may get sick, Camarena said.
“You should identify somebody that is going to be what we call your ‘flu buddy,’” she said. “The person that is going to help you, bring food to you, make sure that you're doing okay. It’s also a good idea to make sure you have supplies on hand. You don’t want to wait until you’re sick to have to go out and buy Tylenol and a thermometer.”
Those who do get sick have multiple options. If the symptoms are mild, Dr. Chai said fluids, rest and fever control is all that's needed. If it is a more severe case, or there are complicating factors such as asthma or other conditions, then CHS can administer antivirals to help the body fight the infection.
“We encourage everyone to get a flu shot,” Camarena said. “It’s the number one way to prevent the spread of the influenza virus. Also, wash your hands. Good old hand washing helps people prevent a lot of things.”
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