Flu prevention and treatment 

In an effort to help preserve the well-being of the Ohio University community, the content of this site provides answers to frequently asked questions about the influenza virus and the University's response to it.

What is the flu vaccine?

The seasonal flu vaccine is formulated to be the best match for the flu viruses expected to circulate each season. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say that the 2012–13 vaccine protects against 90 percent of the flu viruses identified in patients this season.

The vaccine comes in both a shot and a nasal spray. The flu shot is an inactivated vaccine that is given through a needle usually in the arm. It is approved for all people over 6 months of age. The nasal spray, sometimes called LAIV for "live attenuated influenza virus," is made with a live, weakened vaccine and is approved for people between 2 and 49 years of age who are not pregnant.

Neither the flu shot nor nasal spray cause a person to get the flu. Still, vaccination is not a guarantee that you won't still get the flu. The 2012–13 flu vaccine has a reported effectiveness rate of about 63 percent; in other words, it prevents illness in about 63 percent of those who receive it. Even if you do become sick, reports indicate that those who receive the vaccine and do become ill have less severe symptoms.

Faculty and staff and their insured dependents over age 14 can receive flu vaccines free of charge at participating local pharmacies. Call your pharmacy to ask if they participate in this program. Be sure to take your insurance cards with you when you get your shot. 

The Athens City-County Health Department offers free flu vaccines at its office on West Union Street by appointment. Call (740) 592-4331 for more information.

Students can get the flu vaccine through Campus Care (previously Hudson Health Center) for $25, which includes an administration fee. Immunizations are given Monday through Friday by appointment. Call (740) 593-1660 to make an appointment.

Who should get the vaccine?

The CDC recommends that everyone over 6 months of age should get the flu vaccine. It especially important for those with certain medical conditions to be vaccinated:

  • People with asthma, diabetes, or chronic lung disease
  • Pregnant women
  • People age 65 or older

Consult your doctor before getting a flu shot if you:

•    Have a severe allergy to chicken eggs
•    Have had a severe reaction to a previous influenza vaccination
•    Developed Guillain-Barré syndrome within six weeks of getting an influenza vaccine
•    Have a moderate to severe illness with a fever

How can students get flu shots?

Students can receive the flu vaccine through Campus Care (previously Hudson Health Center) for $25.

Are there any side effects if I get the flu vaccine?

The viruses in the flu shot are inactive, so you cannot get the flu from the flu shot, but minor side effects can occur. Side effects include:

•    Soreness, redness, or swelling where the shot was given
•    Fever (low grade)
•    Aches

The flu vaccine is regularly monitored by the CDC and the Food and Drug Administration.  Hundreds of millions of Americans have received the flu vaccine in the past 50 years, and in most cases side effects are mild.

How else can I reduce my chances of becoming ill?

The CDC recommends these measures to take to help avoid infection:

•    Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it.
•    Wash your hands often with soap and water, especially after you cough or sneeze.
•    Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Germs spread this way.
•    Avoid kissing or close contact (a distance of six feet or more is recommended at all times) with people who are sick or if you are experiencing flu symptoms.
•    Avoid sharing drinks or food with other people. This includes sharing drinking cups, as is commonly done in some drinking games.


Handwashing is supposed to be helpful. Is this true?

Yes. Next to getting a flu vaccine, good hand hygiene is the best way to keep from getting sick and to keep from spreading the virus to others.

Wash your hands:

•    After blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing
•    Before preparing or eating food
•    After going to the bathroom
•    After changing diapers or cleaning up a child who has gone to the bathroom
•    Before and after tending to someone who is sick
•    After handling an animal or animal waste
•    After handling garbage
•    Before and after treating a cut or wound

How to wash your hands:

•    Wet your hands with clean running water and apply soap. Use warm water if it is available.
•    Rub hands together to make a lather and scrub all surfaces.
•    Continue rubbing hands for at least 20 seconds. Need a timer? Imagine singing "Happy Birthday" twice through.
•    Rinse hands well under running water.
•    Dry your hands using a paper towel or air dryer. If possible, use your paper towel to turn off the faucet.

Using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer:

•    Use a product that has at least 60 percent alcohol as the active ingredient.
•    Apply product to the palm of one hand.
•    Rub hands together.
•    Rub the product over all surfaces of hands and fingers until hands are dry.

What should I do if I get sick?

If you become ill with influenza-like symptoms—including fever, body aches, runny or stuffy nose, sore throat, nausea, vomiting or diarrhea—you should stay home and avoid contact with other people.

The CDC recommends that you stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone, except to get medical care or for other necessities. (Your fever should be gone without the use of a fever-reducing medicine.)

Stay away from others as much as possible to keep from making others sick. Staying at home means that you should not leave your home except to seek medical care. This means avoiding normal activities, including work, school, travel, shopping, social events and public gatherings.

How can I make sure I don't infect someone else?

Keep away from others as much as possible.

Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing. Put your used tissue in the waste basket, then clean your hands. Follow this procedure every time you cough or sneeze.

If you are sick, you should stay at home or in your residence hall until at least 24 hours after you no longer have a fever (100 degrees Fahrenheit or 38 degrees Celsius) or signs of a fever (have chills, feel very warm, have a flushed appearance, or are sweating). This should be determined without the use of fever-reducing medicine, which includes any medicine that contains ibuprofen, naproxen sodium or acetaminophen.

What about my house or office?

Flu viruses can survive on surfaces and remain infectious for up to two to eight hours after being deposited. Good housekeeping can prevent the spread of flu this way.

To prevent the spread of influenza virus, tissues and other disposable items used by an infected person should be thrown in the trash—don't let them pile up. Additionally, wash your hands with soap and water after touching used tissues and similar waste.

Keep surfaces (especially bedside tables, the bathroom, kitchen counters and toys) clean by wiping them down with a household disinfectant according to directions on the product label. At work, clean your computer keyboard, desk and other surfaces with disinfectant.

On-campus residential students are required and expected to maintain a clean room and take part in the use and care of public areas within their individual residence halls. All public areas are cleaned daily by full-time custodial staff Monday through Friday, with limited services on Saturday and Sunday.

What surfaces are most likely to be sources of contamination?

Germs of any kind can be spread when you touch something that is contaminated with germs and then touch your eyes, nose or mouth. Droplets from a cough or sneeze of an infected person move through the air. Germs also can be spread when a you touches respiratory droplets from another person on a surface (like a desk) and then touches your eyes, mouth or nose before washing your hands.

Common places and items that are most likely to be contaminated include:

•    Telephones
•    Remote controls
•    Bathroom sink and counter
•    Light switches
•    Door handles
•    Games and toys
•    Computer keyboards
•    ATM machines
•    Elevator buttons
•    Shopping cart handles