By Molly Igoe
As fall rolls around, so does cold and flu season.
“Vaccination rates on college campuses are ‘strikingly low’—as low as eight percent and only as high as 39 percent, according to a 2016 report from the National Foundation of Infectious Diseases,” said Director of Health Services Lisa Marx.
Marx said that many college students are pretty healthy and don’t think they will get the flu. The NFID report, titled “Addressing the Challenges of Influenza Vaccination on US College Campuses,” identifies additional hurdles that college students face. This includes having very busy schedules, transitioning to managing their own health, and uncertainty about insurance coverage.
“The problem is that the flu can spread quickly through dormitories, classrooms, and shared restrooms, and those who get sick can lose up to eight days or more of class, taking a hit academically. We advise students to go home if they can, isolate themselves in their rooms and to not attend classes, athletics or use dining hall options until they are fever free for 48 hours without the use of fever reducing medications,” she said.
This year, Washington College partnered with Walgreens to provide students, faculty, and staff with a flu shot clinic on Oct. 4 and 5 in Hodson Hall. According to Marx, they gave about 170 flu shots for students on campus during the clinic, amounting to 10 percent of the student population.
Students who were unable to get a flu shot at the clinic can go to their local pharmacy, including Walgreens and Rite Aid in Chestertown. Most doctor’s offices also offer free flu shots.
Symptoms of flu often include a high fever, headache, body aches, fatigue, and chest discomfort/cough.
“It takes about two weeks for the person to build up immunity. So now is a great time to get one before traveling around the Thanksgiving holidays when you are typically exposed to a many friends and/or family members,” she said.
To prevent getting the flu, Marx said to always wash your hands and to get the flu vaccine.
For more information, Health Services has common flu symptoms on their website: www.washcoll.edu/offices/health-and-counseling-services/fluinformation.php.