By Tisha Herrera, Staff Writer
This year’s seasonal influenza (flu) virus has been the most virulent since 2009 according to statistics from the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention, with one in every ten deaths nationwide related to the H3N2 flu virus in recent weeks.
The unexpectedly strong flu season this year required a response from David Farris, executive director of Safety and Emergency Management, and Dr. Wagida Abdalla, the director of Student Health Services (SHS), about preventative measures to stay healthy and avoid this year’s outbreak.
“That [email alert] was really sent in response to a higher than normal levels of influenza in the region — Virginia in particular,” said Farris. “Mason by no means has a localized outbreak of flu.”
As students and faculty returned to campus this semester, many have already contracted the flu, and could not attend their classes. The Office of Student Services does track the number of faculty and staff that are out sick, explained Farris, but students are bit more difficult to keep track of, because they “don’t have to check in everyday, or report days they miss from class.”
“I didn’t get a flu shot [last year], but I ended up getting the flu,” said senior Tyler Shields. “I missed about four days’ worth of classes.”
Even as some students and instructors continue to miss classes due to this year’s flu outbreak, others were able to recover over winter break in time for the spring semester. Mason student Tyler Jones did not receive a flu shot from SHS.
“My friend did get [the vaccine],” Jones remembered, “and literally that night after he spoke about how his arm was sore, I woke up with a fever.”
Everyone should take precautions to prevent contracting the flu. Farris wanted Mason’s flu warning message this semester to “reinforce the good hygiene that’s necessary, that can be used to protect folks from becoming sick and getting others sick.”
“The flu vaccine is usually effective through the flu season,” said Dr. Abdalla. Despite the disclaimer posted on the office’s website, “SHS [still] has a limited supply of flu vaccines,” she explained. Those vaccines are available to all Mason students at their office in SUB 1.
These preventative measures to fight the flu should include paying attention to personal hygiene, making sure to get plenty of sleep every night, and eating nutritious foods to boost the body’s immune responses.
Do not hesitate to notify your instructors if you become ill, and avoid classes if you are sick to prevent spreading the flu virus to other students. If students are unable to get the flu vaccine from the SHS office in SUB 1, they are also available with a visit to your local pharmacy.
Photo by Allie Thompson