The seasonal flu is back with vengeance this year. The national Centers for Disease Control (CDC) declared this season’s outbreak as an epidemic Friday and Texas tops the list as an at-risk region.
Local health officials have already reported 50 flu-related deaths and hundreds of hospitalizations across North Texas. SMU Health officials are worried the deadly strain could come to campus.
In an email distributed three times to students, faculty and staff, university officials urged community members to get vaccinated. While local hospitals and clinics are experiencing shortages of the flu shot, SMU has made the vaccination available to students, faculty and staff for free.
“Because the flu can spread by contact with people who are ill, health officials recommend getting a flu shot if you have not yet done so,” SMU Health explained online.
According to the CDC, the traditional flu shot protects against three flu viruses. This season’s flu shot protects against four. Although it takes the body about two weeks to develop antigens against the flu, getting the flu shot now is still a good idea.
“Influenza seasons are unpredictable,” the CDC said online. “Substantial activity can occur as late as May.”
Memorial Health Center will be distributing flu shots Monday through Friday, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Patients wanting to receive the free shot are required to present their SMU ID and complete a Flu Vaccine Form available online. A number of other precautions are also recommended to students, faculty and staff.
Washing hands with soap and water, covering the mouth when coughing or sneezing and avoiding contact with those are sick are common ways to ward off the flu. Monitoring one’s health and checking the body for flu-like symptoms is another recommended precaution.
Symptoms include sore throat, runny nose, fever, body aches, headaches, coughing or diarrehea.
“Seek medical attention if experiencing acute symptoms,” SMU Health said in an email. “If symptoms get worse after three or four days, return to your healthcare provider to make sure you have not developed a secondary infection.”
The CDC releases reports on flu outbreaks across the nation once a week. For more information on the flu at SMU visit smu.edu/flu.