Opinion Staff Writer
This year’s flu virus affects many and should be taken seriously by all, especially students. The State Health Department revealed the flu took the lives of 67 people total this flu season. Though these numbers can be deceiving due to other determining factors such as age and prior health statuses of the individuals, the flu is killing people.
Several UNC Asheville students have taken to wearing masks while on campus, attending classes or even the cafeteria. Sneezing and hacking around this time of year simply becomes background music in many classes.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, flu-like symptoms consist of “feverish chills, fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, muscle or body aches, headaches and fatigue.”
“On average we have seen 20 students or so with flu-like symptoms this week alone,” said Jay Cutspec, director of the Health and Counseling Center.
Students are exposed to and come in contact with more germs than most people. As with most shared spaces, everything has been touched by other students at some point earlier that day.
“Phones are a great breeding ground for bacteria. I recommend students wiping down and disinfecting their phones daily,” Cutspec said.
Precautionary measures such as wiping down surfaces and covering your mouth should be done everyday.
“Students are not aware of just how much bacteria lays on many of the surfaces they come in contact with daily. This time of year it is very important to stay conscious of the germs on door handles and bathroom surfaces,” Cutspec said. “The best thing you can do for yourself is to get the flu shot yearly and to get it early.”
According to the CDC, the overall effectiveness for the vaccine in the U.S. last year was 39 percent.
“A common misconception is that the flu shot gives you the flu virus. That is not the case,” Cutspec said.
Cutspec emphasized the importance of proper hand washing, staying home when sick and utilizing the Health and Counseling Center. Cutspec tells students they should feel free to set up an appointment by phone or as a walk-in.
Catching the flu early makes all of the difference. Tamiflu can reduce the virus if taken within the first two days. But despite this information, many students are opting out of flu shots.
Karis Hall said she did not get the flu shot this year because she felt she would end up getting sick from the shot itself. When asked why she had not gotten her flu shot she gave a brief response.
“ I didn’t get it because the flu shot gives you the flu and I have classes I can’t miss,” Hall said.
Another student expressed that she had gotten her shot this year. Mia Hussey, a junior art student, said she got her flu shot this year for personal health reasons.
“Over thanksgiving break I made it a priority to get my flu shot from my primary care doctor,” said Hussey.
The student health insurance known as Student Blue covers the flu shot free of charge. If students out of this insurance plan and have private insurance, options are still available. Pharmacies are able to administer the flu shot now, with CVS and Walgreens as some of the quickest and cheapest locations to get this done. The influenza vaccine is covered by most insurance providers as well.
Pinpointing flu-like symptoms or simply symptoms of the common cold is vital to how the illness will progress. Catching these characteristics early, drink plenty of fluids and get well-needed rest. Tylenol and Advil are recommended to keep flu-like symptoms under control. Most importantly — and perhaps the most challenging for college students — staying at home and away from others will limit the exposure to germs and will minimize the spread of illness.