Op-Ed: How to avoid the flu this season

This year, flu season started earlier, and it is affecting many more people than in previous years.

Influenza is a serious contagious respiratory illness that causes mild to severe symptoms such as fever, cough, body aches, sore throat, nasal congestion, headaches and chills. While some may think that the flu only affects the old, the very young or those already sick, it is important to remember that the flu affects all age groups – even young, healthy, college-aged adults with no underlying medical issues.

Due to the flu’s potentially serious complications, it is important that everyone take steps to prevent catching the virus. While the University is stepping up its cleaning efforts of high traffic areas, individuals also can help prevent the flu by receiving a flu vaccination. Students can obtain the vaccination by attending a flu clinic to be held at the Student Health Service on Jan. 17 from 4 to 6 p.m. or by attending a local pharmacy.

While most individuals who become ill with influenza recover without complications, in some cases the flu can lead to hospitalization and death, even in young people. Those who get the flu are often too ill to attend class, work or do other activities for several days.

It is not too late to receive the vaccine’s protection. Even though flu season is well underway, cases tend to peak in January and February and can last until May.

While the vaccine is the most effective form of prevention, there are other measures that can be taken to avoid contracting the flu. To promote overall good health, get plenty of sleep, reduce stress, eat healthy and stay well hydrated.

And to prevent the spread of the virus, remember three things: clean, cover and contain. Clean your hands frequently for at least 20 seconds, and avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth. Cover your nose and mouth when coughing or sneezing. Contain yourself by avoiding close contact with those who are sick. And avoid spreading the virus by staying home from class and work.

Finally, antiviral medications can be prescribed to shorten the duration and severity of symptoms. Contact SHS or your healthcare provider to learn about these medications.

Further information about this year’s flu outbreak can be found on the Center for Disease Control website. If you have any questions, concerns or if you think you might have the flu, contact the Student Health Service.

Isabel A. Goldenberg, MD

Medical Director, Student Health Service

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