Courtesy of MCT
Flu season hit earlier and harder this season and hasn’t run its course yet, but Ohio State doctors said it’s not too late to get a flu vaccine.
Through Jan. 5, there were 2,000 flu-related hospitalizations in Ohio, compared to 86 last year and 175 the year before, according to the Ohio Department of Health.
Because of the early start of flu season this year, a process called “mixing” has occurred, said Dr. James Jacobs, director of Student Health Services. Mixing is when people travel during the outbreak of a sickness, flu in this case, and potentially infect or become infected by an otherwise geographically separate group of people.
“People have gone home to places where there is more flu and then they come back to campus, carrying the virus,” Jacobs said, since the flu started spreading at a higher rate than in previous years before students left for break.
Jacobs said he expects a spike in flu cases over the next two to three weeks after the virus has had time to incubate.
However, it is not too late to get a flu shot, said Dr. Angela Tucker, clinical assistant professor of family medicine. Getting a vaccine doesn’t guarantee a person won’t get the flu, Tucker said, but the case will be much milder than if that person did not get the vaccine.
While the vaccine doesn’t protect an individual from all strains of the flu, studies from the Center for Disease Control show that vaccines reduce someone’s risk of getting the flu by 60 percent.
Flu shots are available for walk-ins at the Wilce Student Health Center from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday, while supplies last, Jacobs said.
Flu immunizations are covered under the comprehensive student health insurance plan, and several other insurance plans cover the cost partially or entirely. Without any insurance, the vaccination costs $25.
“Supposedly there are already shortages in some places,” Jacobs said. “Although, it’s probably not an absolute shortage like there was several years ago. It’s probably just an issue of distribution.”
Even if people decide not to get a flu shot, there are a few simple things they can do to prevent the flu. The most important of these is “hand-washing, hand-washing, hand-washing,” Tucker said. Jacobs agreed and added that it is also good to practice “cough and sneeze etiquette” by covering coughs and sneezing into a tissue.
Jacobs said this season’s flu is more virulent, meaning it is more likely to cause the infected person to suffer the symptoms of flu than in years past, including fever, a sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, fatigue, the chills and body aches. New York and Boston have already declared public health emergencies due to the flu.
“It’s real, it seems to be real this year and that’s why we encourage extra precautions,” Jacobs said.
Patrick Borgemenke, a first-year in computer science and engineering, said he does not plan on getting a flu shot this year.
“I don’t really believe in medication and all that fun stuff. It’s kind of just a personal choice I guess,” Borgemenke said.
Kelsey Norton, a third-year in mathematics, also does not plan on getting the vaccine, but said she understands other people do.
“They are good. They do stop a lot of people from getting the flu,” Norton said.
Nathalie Sanchez, a graduate student in veterinary medicine, said she thinks getting the flu shot is a good idea, and she has already received hers this season.
“I think everyone should get their flu shot. I don’t see a reason why you wouldn’t get one,” Sanchez said.