Jan 23, 2013
By Corinne Colbert
In addition to new gloves and scarves, students and employees returning to campus may bring another sign of winter: the flu virus.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that this year’s influenza season started earlier and is hitting harder than in previous years. According to the Ohio Department of Health, Ohio has seen a 20-fold increase in flu-related hospitalizations over last year’s season.
Influenza is a respiratory virus that causes fever, cough, sore throat, a runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headache, chills and fatigue. It can be especially dangerous for the very young and the elderly, pregnant women, and people with certain medical conditions, such as asthma, heart disease, lung disease, metabolic disorders, or weakened immune systems from HIV infection or cancer treatment.
If you are at high risk for flu complications and begin to show signs of the flu, see a doctor right away to receive antiviral drugs that can lessen the severity and duration of illness. Anyone with the flu should stay at home until at least 24 hours after fever (100 degrees F or 37.8 degree C) subsides.
To reduce the likelihood and severity of a campus outbreak, University Human Resources encourages all students and employees to receive the influenza vaccine. Flu season can last until May, so it’s not too late to get protected. It takes about two weeks for the vaccine to provide full protection, though, so sooner is better than later.
Although the flu shot has an average overall effectiveness of about 63%, the CDC notes that it is most effective in young, healthy adults—such as college students. Even if it doesn’t prevent infection, the vaccine can make the disease less severe than it would be otherwise.
Where to get flu shots