Thu. Dec 13th, 2018

A Letter to U of L Students: Protect yourself and your community this flu season

Submission by Jerome Soldo —

Jerome Soldo is a second-year medical student at the University of Louisville School of Medicine. He is the Class of 2021 Healthcare Policy Representative and President of the UofL Chapter of the AMA and KMA Medical Student Section.

Whether you’re tackling your first semester of college classes or putting the finishing touches on your doctoral thesis, there is a good chance that abruptly coming down with a fever, cough, chills, diarrhea, body aches, fatigue, and other dreadful symptoms might not be on your list of goals for this semester.

This constellation of symptoms, better known as the flu, is a viral illness that we are all capable of protecting ourselves and others from.

This year, the Kentucky Medical Association, the Kentucky Foundation for Medical Care, and the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky are teaming up on a statewide campaign called “Focus on Flu” to educate the public on the best ways to prevent catching and spreading the flu.

In promoting this public health initiative, I hope to play a part in reducing the possibility of yet another deadly flu season in the Commonwealth.

The most effective way to protect yourself from the flu is to receive the vaccine. Flu vaccines, which have been met with skepticism and indifference in the past, are exceedingly safe and effective.

Flu vaccines have a time-tested safety record, and hundreds of millions of Americans have received the flu vaccine over the past 50 years. Contrary to some perpetuated misbeliefs, the flu vaccine cannot cause the flu. It may cause some mild side effects, such as soreness, headache, and nausea, that subside within a few days.

Life-threatening allergic reactions have indeed occurred, but they are extremely rare. A much more likely scenario than experiencing an adverse reaction to the vaccine is catching the flu and having a miserable week because of it.

The flu vaccine is created anew each year to protect against what are predicted to be the most common strains of the flu virus. Because it is not possible to create a vaccine for every possible form of the virus, there is a chance you can still get the flu after being vaccinated.

Nevertheless, there is strong evidence that suggests that having received a flu shot will lessen the effects of the flu if you do contract it. It might not be an outright win, but it’s definitely a decent consolation prize.

If I haven’t convinced you to get the flu shot for yourself, I ask that you do so for the health and safety of others. As students, we live in close quarters with friends in dorms and apartments or with family members at home. Getting vaccinated reduces the chance that your loved ones and neighbors will come down with the flu.

Receiving the vaccine is also critical for protecting the most vulnerable members of our society. Infants, the elderly, and children and adults with certain chronic illnesses have such weakened immune systems that they are not able to get the vaccine themselves and are thus more susceptible to catching the flu.

By getting the vaccine, you contribute to their safety through a principle called herd immunity: when enough of us are immunized, it stops the flu in its tracks, reducing the chances that immunocompromised people will be affected. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), our nation’s foremost health protection agency, recommends that everyone 6 months of age and older receive a flu vaccine before the end of October. Since flu activity has already been reported this year, the time to act is now.

In addition to getting the flu vaccine, employing proper health and hygiene is especially essential during flu season. Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water, use the free hand sanitizer on campus, cover your sneezes and coughs, avoid sharing drinks with others, and get the quality sleep that your immune system needs to thrive.

If you do get sick despite your best prevention efforts, contact your doctor or medical provider and stay home from school or work to prevent spreading the illness to others.

The “Focus on Flu” campaign slated for Wednesday, Sept. 26 as a statewide “Flu Shot Day” to remind Kentucky residents about the importance of receiving the vaccine. However, there’s no reason to wait until then.

U of L’s Campus Health Services is offering free vaccines at HSC locations from Sept. 18 through Sept. 21 and at their Belknap and HSC clinics starting Sept. 21. Visit U of L’s campus health portal to learn more about the flu and to access an updated flu shot schedule. Flu vaccines are also available at doctors’ offices, pharmacies, health departments, and even some grocery stores, so encourage your people to get vaccinated, too.

No one wants to deal with the debilitating effects of the flu. Getting your flu shot is the easiest and most effective way you can protect yourself, your family, your friends, and the rest of the Cardinal community.

 

Focus on the flu and get your vaccine today,

Jerome Soldo

 

File Photo / The Louisville Cardinal

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