Stay healthy for the holidays

There’s still time to guard against the flu with vaccination, handwashing and more

| Author: Jeff Johnston

So far, so well.

That's the word from campus health caregivers who say seasonal influenza has not yet arrived in force at Central Michigan University.

"Flu activity in the U.S. is low now, but it's expected to pick up in the coming weeks," said Jodi Shoebottom, University Health Services nursing supervisor.

That means there's still time for a flu shot.

CMU offers flu vaccinations for students from 8:30-11:30 a.m. and 1:30-4:30 p.m. Mondays through Fridays at Student Health Services, 200 Foust Hall. Faculty and staff can receive flu shots at the Primary and Specialty Services Clinic, 2600 Three Leaves Drive in Mount Pleasant, during the same times and days except Friday afternoons, when the PSS is closed. Both clinics are closed Dec. 24-Jan. 1.

Most insurances pay for the flu vaccine, and Shoebottom suggests checking your policy for coverage. Without insurance, the cost is $35. If you have billing questions, call (989) 774-6599.

The flu is a respiratory illness characterized by fever; headache; chills; body aches; and sometimes coughing, sore throat, sneezing and weakness. Symptoms tend to come on quickly.

Influenza viruses typically circulate in the United States annually, most commonly from late fall through early spring. It can cause serious illness, hospitalization and death, particularly among older adults, very young children, pregnant women and those with certain chronic medical conditions.

Beyond receiving the flu shot, Shoebottom said handwashing with soap and water is the best defense.

Flu questions and answers

Here's more information from health services and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:

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.

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