Sheila Njau ’17, Contributing Writer
According to the Center for Disease Control between 1976 and 2007, the number of deaths from influenza has risen from 3,000 to roughly 49,000. While it is not necessarily considered as one of the top killers of Americans, the flu still poses a serious risk and there is the additional risk caused by the fact that the type of flu can change from one season to another. Each year from around May to October, it is thought to be the seasonal flu season and one of the best methods of prevention is getting a seasonal flu vaccine, not only for you, but also to stop it from spreading to other people.
The flu is triggered by the influenza virus and can be given to other people through coughing, sneezing, and also through contact with a sick person. Despite the fact that children and older people are the ones most at risk of contracting the flu, it still does not mean that other age groups remain safe. The flu can present itself with symptoms such as a fever, sore throat, muscle aches, fatigue, coughing, a runny nose, and headaches. The flu vaccine helps protect against four types of viruses including influenza A (H1N1), influenza A (H3N2), and two kinds of influenza B virus. Also, even though the flu vaccine takes up to two weeks to take effect, it can serve as a preventative measure for several months up to a year.
Also, there is the question of whether the flu vaccine can give you the flu, which has been a concern for some and in some instances has acted as a deterrent to getting the vaccine. The response remains to be that you cannot get the flu from the vaccine, but there have been side effects tied to the flu vaccine as well as the nasal spray, which is given to some in lieu of getting the shot. While the flu vaccine does not give people the flu, there are people with certain conditions who are advised against getting the shot. For instance, people who have severe allergies particularly concerning eggs and people who have ever suffered from Guillain-Barrè syndrome. Also, some side effects include soreness, redness, or itching on the place where the shot was received, hoarseness, sore or red eyes, a headache, fatigue, fever, and coughing. Keep in mind, however, that most of the people who receive flu shots do not have any serious symptoms after the fact. In addition, one has to consider the fact that the flu shot does not guarantee that you will not get the flu, but with the shot, there is a better chance of avoiding this disease.
Trinity College has about 2,254 students on its campus, but according to the Director of Health Services, Martha O’Brien, only “about 400 get shots from us each year”. And while, many people have to pay a certain fee in order to receive the flu shot, here at Trinity the students do not have to pay to get the shot because as Martha O’Brien states “the shots for students are free as the President pays for each student out of his discretionary budget”. Unfortunately, this year we almost did not have the flu vaccines due to a problem concerning a backorder. O’Brien, however, not one to give up “called every company I could get a phone number to order them”. Thanks to her efforts, the students now have a supply of flu shots for this year.
And so, starting last Thursday, October 24th, the vaccine became available for the students and was offered from 8:30am – 12:30pm in the Alumni Lounge at Mather Hall. The shot will be offered once again on Wednesday, October 30th from 8:30am – 12:30 pm in Terrace Room B at Mather Hall. For those students who are unable to go receive the shot at this time, there will also be the opportunity to get it at the Health Center on any Wednesday, Thursday, or Friday between the hours of 9:00am – 12:00pm. You may, however, expect a wait time that can last from 15 to 20 minutes.
And yet, prevention does not just stop with the flu vaccine, as the Health Center suggests other things to do besides getting the shot include taking probiotics, which help keep the digestive tract healthy, trying to minimize stress, which can be a bit difficult with ongoing midterms. As the Health Center October 2013 newsletter states “de-stress by napping, exercising, or however else works for you.” For those interested, there are classes offered in Yoga, Zumba, Belly Dancing, and probably others that can be used as modes of distressing; finding ways to make sure that we can find ways to stay on top of the upcoming flu season.