The flu vaccine this year has an estimated 30 to 40 percent effectiveness, but it is still important to get vaccinated, especially with some cases of a more dangerous flu virus.
Although the flu vaccine is less effective than it could be, having some protection against the flu is better than none at all, especially considering the reappearance of a more aggressive flu strain known as the H3N2 virus.
“Every year, they try to predict what flu strains are going to be around for the following season, and they’re not always right,” College Health Liaison Eileen Wagener said. “But I don’t think students need to be particularly worried specifically about that strain. I think students need to be more worried about getting vaccinated and taking precautions so they don’t get sick.”
Getting vaccinated does not only help protect oneself from becoming sick, but it also helps ensure that the community as a whole is protected from the virus and is healthier as a result.
“As someone who can’t get the flu shot, typically I’m banking on the people I’m around the most to get the flu shot or at least tell me if they’re sick,” first-year Emmett Ferree said. “With it being only partially effective, and some of them not getting it at all, [there’s] a lot of concern.”
The flu vaccine is widely available, and students can get it from the Penn State Health Medical Group Elizabethtown, or from stores like CVS or Giant.
It is not too late to get the flu shot either, as the flu season can last until April.
The best way for handling the flu is to avoid catching it in the first place.
Despite the vaccine’s lowered effectiveness, it is an important safeguard for your health.
“It’s still better to have the flu shot and get some protection than to not be vaccinated at all,” Wagener said. “So if you’ve had the flu shot and you still get the flu, at least you’re not going to get as sick.”
So what happens if you do get the flu?
The main symptoms of the flu are a sudden onset of the sickness, extreme body aches and high fevers. People may also experience other coldlike symptoms such as a dry cough.
In some cases, if a person has only had the flu for one to two days, a physician may prescribe an anti-viral medicine known as Tamiflu, which can minimize the length of time and severity of the symptoms. It can also help people with chronic health conditions who are at higher risk.
After the first 48 hours, Tamiflu will not help. From there on, recovery involves a lot of rest to prevent the development of a secondary infection such as pneumonia.
“We try to encourage students [with the flu] not to go to class, since that’s just going to spread it to more people,” Wagener said. “They need to drink lots of fluids and get lots of rest. They can take pain relievers like Tylenol or Advil for the fever and the body aches.”
For the most part, however, getting over the flu just takes time.