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Shoo flu! Students prepare for season of sickness

With the sun and heat of Southwest Florida, it’s hard to fathom getting the flu even if it is winter. However, as senior Kalhan Rosenblatt knows, the flu can creep up when it is least expected.

“I was out to dinner, and I couldn’t keep my head up anymore,” Rosenblatt said. “Usually when I get sick I feel it in my sinuses or I have a sore throat and I can kind of tell something is coming. But this just hit me like a truck.”

Rosenblatt has had the flu at least three times and although the idea of getting a flu shot always crosses her mind, she has never followed through with it. Dr. Larry Hobbs from Urgent Care Centers of Southwest Florida said the two best ways to prevent catching the flu are to wash your hands and to get a flu shot.

“Unless you have an allergy to eggs, everyone should get a yearly flu shot,” Dr. Hobbs said. According to the Centers for Diseases Control, some flu vaccinations contain eggs. If a person has a severe allergic reaction to eggs, they need to take care in obtaining the correct type of flu vaccine.

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According to the CDC and Prevention website, flu symptoms usually include fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headaches and tiredness. There have been articles stating that this year’s flu strain has been worse than previous years.

In Jodie Tillman’s article for the Tampa Bay Times, “Flu biting Florida hard,” she wrote that the H3N2 virus, this year’s dominant flu strain, mutated after this season’s flu vaccine was created. Therefore, the vaccine doesn’t work as well in preventing it.

The CDC declared an influenza epidemic much sooner than usual for the flu season, according to Margot Sanger-Katz’s “This Year’s Flu Is Outpacing Those From Recent Years” article in The New York Times.  The article also stated that 22 states and Puerto Rico have reported high flu intensity this year.

But Dr. Hobbs’ experience with the flu this year in Southwest Florida proves differently.

“It varies every year as viruses rapidly mutate,” Dr. Hobbs said. “To date, this year’s flu strain seen in Southwest Florida has not been any more dangerous than in previous years.  There have been occasional infections of a strain that the current flu shot did not cover, but they have been rare.”

The CDC also reported that flu activity peaks between December and February. When Rosenblatt got the flu, she had to take off school for three days and was fighting the virus for about five to six days.

“The worst part is getting thrown out of your usual schedule … It is not only the week you are out, but it is also the week you spend getting caught up,” Rosenblatt said.

The amount of time spent on catching up can relate back to cooperation from teachers. Rosenblatt said some teachers were understanding of her absence as long as she provided a doctor’s note. However, other teachers weren’t as understanding.

Christine Wright-Isak, assistant professor of marketing at FGCU, hopes that if a student is sick with the flu, he or she will stay home.

“I thank them for not spreading germs and let them make up the work they miss,” Wright-Isak said. “No one is helped — me, the sick student, or the other students in the class who will end up sick a week later — by insisting they either lose credit or drag themselves into class.”

With classes starting up again and about two more months of flu season left, the recommended prevention is to get a flu shot.

FGCU students can make an appointment with Prevention and Wellness to get the flu shot for $15. According to Kevin J. Collins, Director of Health Services, 552 students have gotten his or her flu shot at Prevention and Wellness this season.

Collins said that college students generally have a lower vaccination rate than the rest of the population. At the beginning of the season, 800 flu shots were purchased by Student Health Services. Prevention and Wellness has about 250 flu shots left to administer. Once the remaining 250 are issued, Prevention and Wellness will not have any more.

After Rosenblatt’s experience with the flu, she advises everyone to get the flu shot even if your schedule seems too busy.

“I drive past Walgreens and I think ‘I should do that’ and then I get distracted with 6 million things I have to do,” Rosenblatt said. “But, go get a flu shot. Don’t follow my lead. It is definitely not the way to go.”

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