There are four words no one wants to hear — or say — this time of year: I have the flu.
But influenza is indeed starting to spread, and Central Michigan University Student Health Services is taking notice.
"CMU Health has begun to see an uptick of flu on campus," said Erik Robinette, CMU director of health care logistics and planning. Flu is a respiratory illness characterized by fever, headache, chills, body aches and sometimes coughing, sore throat, sneezing and weakness, Robinette said. Symptoms tend to come on quickly.
The good news is that health services has four welcome words of its own: We have flu shots.
Flu vaccination hours are 8:30-11:30 a.m. and 1:30-4:30 p.m. Mondays through Fridays at health services in Foust Hall 200 and at the Primary and Specialty Services Clinic for faculty and staff, 2600 Three Leaves Drive in Mount Pleasant.
The cost is $35, and most insurances pay for the flu vaccine, said Lora Zenz, health services nursing supervisor.
"We will bill their insurance," she said. "If a student with no insurance is paying cash, we give a discount, and they can call our billing office (989-774-6599) with questions regarding that."
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control reports an increase in flu activity around the United States, with 49 states reporting flu activity. Michigan and 25 other states report high activity.
"These indicators are similar to what was seen at the peak of the 2014-2015 season, which was the most severe season in recent years," Robinette said, adding that the CDC also reports symptoms are shorter and less severe in patients who have received the flu vaccine.
Aside from getting a flu shot, hand washing with soap and water is the best defense against getting the flu, Robinette said.
Flu questions and answers
Here's information from health services and the CDC:
Can I get sick or develop flu symptoms from the vaccine? You cannot get the flu from the flu vaccine. Some first-time vaccine recipients can get a low-grade fever and body aches that may last one to three days.
What should I do if I think I have the flu? If you have symptoms of flu, you should see a medical provider.
How about medication? Take flu antiviral drugs if your doctor prescribes them. Antiviral drugs are different from antibiotics, which are not effective against the flu. Antiviral drugs can make illness milder and shorten the time you are sick. They also may prevent serious flu complications. For people with high-risk factors, treatment with an antiviral drug can mean the difference between having a milder illness versus a very serious illness that could result in a hospital stay.
Studies show that flu antiviral drugs work best for treatment when you start them within two days of getting sick, but starting them later can still be helpful, especially if you have a high-risk health condition or are very sick from the flu. Follow your doctor's instructions.
Should I go to work or class if I'm sick? No. While sick, limit contact with others as much as possible to keep from infecting them. You need to be free of a fever for 24 hours before returning to work or school.
In addition to washing hands and getting a flu shot, what else can I do to avoid the flu? Try to avoid close contact with sick people. Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze, and throw the tissue in the trash after you use it. If soap and water are not available for hand washing, use an alcohol-based hand rub. Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth. Germs spread this way. Clean and disinfect surfaces and objects that may be contaminated with germs like the flu.