Grab a box of tissues and some hot tea. Flu season is here.
The upcoming cold weather, opens the door for upper respiratory infections, seasonal colds and flu cases, according to The Centers for Disease Control.
The threat of sickness falls within the same month as two tuberculosis cases on campus. The overall threat was rendered low, but students should expect other cases of illness on campus all winter long, said Linda Hancock, director of the Wellness Resource Center and a clinician at University Student Health Services.
The CDC’s website listed the three most common strains of the seasonal influenza virus, commonly known as the flu, as influenza types A, B and C. Human influenza A and B viruses cause seasonal epidemics of disease almost every winter in the United States. Influenza type C infections cause a mild respiratory illness, but are not thought to cause epidemics, Hancock said.
The CDC website also said flu activity most commonly peaks in the U.S. in January or February. However, seasonal flu activity can begin as early as October and continue as late as May.
Anyone living in close quarters with a lot of people will always run the risk of contracting infectious diseases from those around them, Hancock said
“I don’t think an urban college presents more risk than a rural college. Both have residence halls, both have students in classroom buildings coughing on each other,” Hancock said. “ … College, military recruits, people working in retail stores with lots of customers, … are at risk from a bunch of people being in a similar space.”
Dr. Margaret Roberson, director of VCU Student Health Services, said as the cold weather pushes students indoors, many need to be wary of their health. College students are at a greater risk for illnesses than the average young adult. Whether on an urban campus or rural campus, students are crowded together, increasing the risk for the spread of URIs, she said.
To avoid illness Roberson recommends plenty of sleep, good nutrition habits and exercise. She also said students should get flu shots.
Student Health Services offers free flu shots for full and part-time students during immunization hours, Roberson said.
“We also will be holding flu clinics at the Well … It’s important to be sure to get plenty of rest and eat right and exercise to decrease your susceptibility to cold viruses. If you do get sick you want to avoid spreading your illness so use hand sanitizer and stay home if you have a fever,” Roberson said.
Flu shots must be administered each year to be effective, because influenza strains adapt and mutate with each new vaccine that is made.
The CDC website recommends an annual flu vaccine for everyone six months of age and older.
While there are many different flu viruses, the vaccine is designed to protect against the three main flu strains that will cause the most illness during a flu season, Roberson said.
Students with chronic conditions, such as asthma or diabetes, are strongly recommended to get immunizations as soon as possible to avoid larger health concerns. There are plenty of ways to receive immunization if a person is not comfortable with needles, Hancock said.
“Get the free flu shot or the flumist (nasal spray form of the flu vaccine),” she said. “You don’t want to miss a week from school because you are sick … (It is) much better to take a few minutes to get a flu shot.”
Students interested in getting a flu shot can walk-in during VCU Health Services’ immunization hours or check The Well’s website for clinic times.