As the trees begin to lose their leaves and days get shorter, impending flu epidemics creep up on us. According to the Center for Disease Control, “Influenza activity often begins to increase in October and November.”
Influenza outbreaks in the United States are at their peaks during these fall and winter months. At the threshold of this flu season, focusing on prevention is key.
The primary form of prevention is vaccination. The National Foundation for Infectious Diseases led a poll in 2017 that asked college students about their attitudes towards the flu vaccine and their participation in vaccination programs.
The results show that 70 percent of students believe that receiving an annual influenza vaccine is important. However, only 46 percent of students say they get a vaccine in a typical year.
The most common reason students reported for not getting the vaccine was “I’m healthy. I do not need it.”
Northwestern’s nurse practitioner Michelle Van Wyhe understands some students prefer to face the flu season without the shot, but encourages them that even though they are young and healthy, “everyone is at risk for influenza and should receive the vaccine.”
Van Whye adds not only is the vaccine helpful in avoiding the disease, but “it also helps to decrease the severity of illness in those who contract the virus.”
The NFID found after the poll that providing easy access to the vaccine is a significant encourager for students to get the vaccine. NW students are able to get a flu shot right on campus. Appointments can be made at the Wellness Center by calling Lila at 707-7321, emailing firstname.lastname@example.org, or stopping by the office.
Other vaccine providers such as Walgreens and Target offer monetary incentives with the shot.
Alongside vaccination, the Center for Disease Control also provides a few other methods for influenza prevention. Keeping distance from others who are infected by the disease significantly reduces a person’s risk of contracting the sickness. On the other hand, staying home from class or work when sick can stop the disease from spreading to others.
The CDC also recommends taking initiative to stop the spread of germs by always washing hands and sanitizing spaces as well as coughing and sneezing into a tissue instead of a hand.
Other helpful tips to follow during this upcoming season are to get adequate sleep, manage stress, drink enough water and eat a healthy diet. Not having these habits can make someone vulnerable to diseases like influenza, especially during epidemics.
Going into the end of a semester, finals and the holidays, the last thing any student wants is a bout of influenza. Following the CDC’s simple steps to stop the spread of germs can help keep everyone healthier this flu season.