Flu season is here, according to the Center of Disease Control and Prevention. Even though flu season typically peaks around January, the center is encouraging people to start getting their flu shots now.
“You have a 1-in-5 chance of getting the flu any given flu season,” said Dr. Shawn McQuilkin, physician and medical director at the Weber State University Health Center. “Odds are that you won’t get it. But if you do get it, you’d wish you had gotten the vaccination.”
Free flu vaccinations are now available at both the Ogden and Davis campuses.
“The ones who should be first in line are people with a chronic illness, diabetes, asthma and chronic conditions,” McQuilkin said. “For you and I, it puts us in bed for five days, but for them, it could put them in the hospital.”
McQuilkin said between the two campuses, there are 400 to 600 vaccinations available, which means there will not be enough for every student to get one.
“You won’t believe this, but last year we didn’t have many takers,” McQuilkin said. He said the Health Center had leftover vaccinations.
WSU students have contrasting opinions on whether the flu shot helps prevent the flu.
On one side, students say it works.
“I just get it as a yearly thing,” said Jason Hansen, a WSU freshman majoring in computer engineering. “I’m trying to think of the last time I had the flu. It has been a while, so I think it does work.”
Other students do not agree.
“Last time I got a flu shot, I got extremely sick,” said Susana Landaverde, a WSU senior majoring in public relations and advertising. “I’m not getting one again.”
McQuilkin said the idea of getting sick from a flu shot is a common misunderstanding.
“The most common reaction to a flu shot is a sore arm, and that’s generally what we see,” he said.
Rare complications can occur with a flu shot, but when students get their flu shots, they are asked to complete a pre-screening questionnaire to help avoid these complications.
One way to avoid getting the flu is to take precautionary measures. McQuilkin’s tips for avoiding the flu are washing hands frequently, getting eight hours of sleep, taking a daily multivitamin and getting a flu shot.
For students who happen to get the flu, McQuilkin said he recommends going to the doctor to get tested, and if the test is positive, there are prescription medications — like Tamiflu — that can help patients get over the flu faster.
McQuilkin explained that flu shots only help to prevent the flu, not colds. He said it is important to know the different symptoms of each, and that the flu has an abrupt onset with a high fever.
“You’re burning up, 103 (temperature), you’ve got the chills like crazy, your face is all flushed, and you’re under the covers five deep and you’re still cold,” McQuilkin said. He said that a cold has a gradual onset, including “a running nose (and) a bit of a scratchy throat.”
“If you are going to be devastated if you miss seven days of classes, then you’ll most likely want to get a flu shot,” McQuilkin said.