A student receives a flu vaccination during Campus Health Services’ “house-call” to the Student Activities Center on Jan. 17.

By Simon Isham–

Getting a flu shot is an effective way to ward off the influenza virus, but it is not foolproof. These inoculations take an average of two weeks to immunize the body against infection, and only then at a current success rate of 62 percent, according to Dr. Thomas Frieden of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The vaccine is traditionally recommended as a first line of defense for those who hope to avoid the flu altogether, but they are not the first choice for those who have already contracted the illness and wish to prevent others from meeting a similar fate.

On Jan. 10, Campus Health Services posted a press release on the U of L homepage instructing students, faculty and staff how they can prepare against the flu. The final item in the list read:  “If you are sick, stay home or in your dorm room to prevent spreading germs to others.”

But how can one be sure if one is contagious? How does one decide if it is worth missing class to avoid potentially infecting one’s classmates? In short, how sick is “sick?” The Cardinal caught up with Trish Cooper, the Director of Campus Health Services, seeking an answer.

“If you are getting over the flu and your fever has gone down for 48 hours without the use of Tylenol or Advil, you should be safe to be around people again,” said Cooper.

“If you still have the flu and are coughing and sneezing, you should keep a safe distance from people. Coughing and sneezing fall into a category called droplet transmission — these are particles that come out of your respiratory tract when you cough, sneeze or even talk. They travel for three-to-six feet and then fall. This is how the flu is spread.”

According to the Mayo Clinic, the flu germs spread by droplet transmission can live wherever they may happen to land for a duration “ranging from a few minutes to 48 hours or more.”

Because of this, Campus Health Services advises setting tissues down on surfaces that others are unlikely to touch, using the hand sanitizer dispensing stations located around campus and learning how to cough or sneeze in a way that will reduce the chance of droplet transmission and spreading bacteria to others.

“Always remember, when you need to sneeze, use the inside of your elbow,” says a representative for Campus Health Services in a video posted to their YouTube Channel. The video features a young woman named Ashley who is reprimanded for attempting to use her hands to block the spray of her sneeze.

The best bet to avoid spreading the flu is always to avoid getting the flu, but if you do catch it, remember that there are ways to spare your friends.

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Photo: Andrew Nathan/The Louisville Cardinal