Here’s what you need to know about the flu

Here’s what you need to know about the flu

Flu season is still here. With college students living, studying, eating and working in close quarters, illness can spread quickly on campus. Here’s what you need to know about the flu. How bad is the flu this year? During the first week of 2018, 26 of 50 states experienced “high” flu activity, but North Carolina

Flu season is still here. With college students living, studying, eating and working in close quarters, illness can spread quickly on campus. Here’s what you need to know about the flu.

How bad is the flu this year?

During the first week of 2018, 26 of 50 states experienced “high” flu activity, but North Carolina was classified as “moderate,” according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In North Carolina, 42 people have died so far from the flu this season, according to the state Department of Health and Human Services. That’s more than double the number of deaths at this point last flu season, when 15 people had died.

As of Jan. 18, UNC Campus Health Services (CHS) had treated 30 confirmed cases of flu this season, according to Michelle Camarena, nursing supervisor and infection control co-chair.

 

I’ve heard the vaccine isn’t all that effective this year. Is this true? Should I still get vaccinated?

It’s too early to tell if the vaccine is truly effective or ineffective in the United States because flu season has yet to peak.

Though there’s a 10 percent vaccine effectiveness statistic making the rounds, Camarena said this data point comes from a study about the effectiveness of the vaccine against only the H3N2 strain in Australia. Camarena said the CDC expects a similar strain of H3N2 to circulate in the United States, and expects the vaccine to be about as effective as it was last year.

Even if the vaccine doesn’t end up being effective, the CDC still recommends getting it, because it covers several strains of the flu. Immune protection from one strain can also often help protect against other, related strains.

 

I never get sick. Why do I need to get the flu shot?

Last month, a twenty-one-year-old bodybuilder got sick and died from the flu in only five days.

That being said, every year many people get away with not getting the shot and manage to avoid getting sick. But you can also spread the virus without actually getting sick, and that can be dangerous for particularly vulnerable groups such as pregnant women and those with some chronic medical conditions, according to the CDC.

 

Is it too late to get a flu shot?

Though the CDC recommends getting the shot in October before the flu season really kicks in, it’s still beneficial to get vaccinated now. But it takes your body about two weeks to build up the immunity once you actually get the shot, so you probably shouldn’t wait much longer. Camarena said UNC likely hasn’t seen the peak of flu season yet.

 

Where can I get a flu shot?

UNC students, faculty, staff and employees can get vaccinated at either the Student Stores Pharmacy or the Campus Health Pharmacy. UNC CHS says they have vaccinated over 6,000 people so far this flu season. Off campus, flu shots are also available at both CVS Pharmacy and Walgreens on Franklin Street, according to their websites. This flu season, the CDC does not recommend getting the nasal spray form of the vaccination.

 

Besides getting a flu shot, what else can I do to avoid getting sick?

Stay hydrated, maintain a healthy diet and get enough sleep.

 

How do I know if I have a cold or if I have the flu?

Colds and the flu have similar symptoms. According to the CDC, colds more often involve a stuffy or runny nose. The flu is often more severe than a cold, and can include high fever, muscle and body aches and fatigue. The flu can also become serious enough that it requires hospitalization.

 

What should I do if I feel like I’m getting sick?

UNC CHS suggests washing your hands, covering your coughs and sneezes, enlisting a friend to help you get food and medicine, staying hydrated and getting plenty of rest. You should also contact your professors to discuss any missed class and friends to help get missed class notes. Although CHS doesn’t issue individual class absence excuse forms, students can request the Office of the Dean of Students notify instructors of absences.

Mimi Tomei
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