Preparing for Battle Against Influenza

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By April Wilson, Contributor

As summer fades into fall, it brings with it a new semester, football, pumpkin spice latte, your favorite sweater and your long neglected fuzzy boots.  It also ushers in the beginning of flu season.

Many will scoff and ask why this is important.  College kids don’t get the flu and if they do, they skip class, lie low and let it run its course—right?

“I would rather have the flu and take it like a man [rather] than get a shot,” freshman Lauren Mosier said.

However, seasonal flu is a serious disease. The Centers for Disease Control estimate that as many as 3,000 to 49,000 people die from the flu and its complications every year.

Director of Student Health Services Marcia Adler said, “People that work in healthcare know that you can die from this…and that you can prevent it.”

According to Adler the people that are most vulnerable to the flu are those that have suppressed or weakened immune systems. This includes people with certain types of immune compromising diseases- the pregnant, the very young, and the elderly.  

“Within our population here at UNO, we have students that are getting cancer treatments, have high risk pregnancies, are on dialysis [and have] had heart transplants,” Adler said.

 Adler also said students with diabetes and asthma fall into the high-risk category and should receive the flu vaccine annually.

According to the CDC the flu is a virus that is spread through droplets that we release from our body when coughing, sneezing and talking.  The droplets can land in the noses or mouths of nearby people, or it can be picked up for a short time off of nearby surfaces, causing a person to become infected.

People can spread the flu before they are even aware they are sick, and for up to 7 days after they start showing symptoms.

The symptoms of the flu include an elevated temperature of more than 101 degrees, muscle aches and a sore throat.

“Influenza is not nausea, vomiting, [or] diarrhea,” Adler said.  Nor are they side effects of the vaccine.

Adler said that small children most often spread the flu as they have poor hand washing habits. She also added that the flu can be prevented by, in addition to receiving the vaccine, washing your hands, getting enough sleep, eating healthy foods like fruits and vegetables and staying hydrated through water and juice.

“Students that work a lot, take a lot of classes and run themselves into the ground  [often end up] operating with low grade influenza,” Adler said.  “[Though] they push through it the poor student with the compromised immune system gets flattened.”

For those concerned about side effects, there are very few.  Adler said the most common side effect is an achy arm that can be prevented by ibuprofen before the shot.

There are some people that should not receive the vaccine. Those include anyone allergic to eggs and anyone feeling under the weather. If someone is undergoing cancer treatment, they need approval from their oncologist, Adler said.

Should you come down with the flu, Student Health Services can provide treatment. They are staffed by nurses, nurse practitioners and physicians from the local community. They can provide over-the-counter medications to alleviate symptoms and advice to help you on your way to recovery.

“The average person with a cold or flu doesn’t need to lay down and take a week off,” Adler said.  “They just need to slow down some.  Moderate exercise …of getting up to move and walk around [helps] prevent pneumonia”.

Student Health Services is located in HPER 102 and has already begun providing flu shots. The cost is $15 for students and $20 for employees. Beginning at the end of September they will host clinics around campus.

“All students should get [the flu vaccine],” Adler said.   “If it’s not for them, it’s for the people they care about.”

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