Students should prepare for upcoming flu season
September is almost over, and finally we can pull out our boots, sweaters and scarves because fall — and with it, fall break — is right around the corner! As autumn descends upon Charlottesville bringing cooler temperatures, brightly-colored leaves and increased stress levels, we can’t afford to preoccupy ourselves with DayQuil and tissue boxes. Yes, flu season is rapidly approaching, and to help students and community members prepare, the flu vaccine will be available around Charlottesville later this month.
To many students, the vaccine may seem like a superfluous expense or inconvenience only suffered by the elderly, young children or people who are already sick with something else. As it happens, this is most definitely not the case. In fact, anyone can catch the influenza virus and be stuck with days or even weeks of body aches, coughs, extreme fatigue and fever. The flu can also lead to far more serious conditions, such as bronchitis, pneumonia and bacterial infections. Daniel McCarter, an associate professor of family medicine, estimates the flu causes 36,000 deaths each year.
It’s important to remember our individual health is not separate from the communities in which we live. Our classmates, professors, families and coworkers are all affected by our own health. If you get the flu shot, you will not only protect yourself but also those people around you who may be at a higher risk of flu complications. This is extremely relevant for those students who go home during fall or Thanksgiving break and visit elderly or very young relatives.
If you’re still skeptical, let me dispel some common misconceptions about the flu vaccine. Many people believe the flu vaccine can actually give the recipient the disease. This is absolutely not true. In fact, even side effects — hoarseness, itchy eyes, cough, fatigue or soreness at the injection site — are not exceedingly common and if they are experienced, do not last long.
Another widespread myth is that the vaccine will wear off if it is administered too early in the season. This again is patently false. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention explain it takes at least two weeks after the vaccination for antibodies to even develop in your body and provide protection, and the effects last for months.
Any health professional you speak to will say the flu vaccine is worth the money. Even the CDC makes a point of saying, “For everyone, getting vaccinated each year provides the best protection against influenza throughout the flu season.”
So go get vaccinated in Newcomb Ball Room Oct. 17. You’ll thank me later.