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Students Should Get Flu Shot, MIT Says

By Megan Ogilvie

December is here, and with it comes final exams, term papers, holiday parties -- and flu season.

MIT Medical recommends that all students consider getting an annual flu shot, available for ten dollars at MIT Medical.

Although a little late in the season to be getting a flu shot -- the ideal time is October or November -- MIT Medical still recommends getting the shot. “It takes two weeks for the shot to become effective,” said Triage Nurse Lynn M. Forgues. “But we still have vaccine. It’s not too late to get it.”

Five thousand flu shots were ordered for the MIT community this fall and more than 3,500 have already been administered to students, spouses, faculty, and staff, said Maryanne Kirkbride, the clinical director for campus life.

Flu shot just a phone call away

“Students who want a flu shot should call the main desk at MIT Medical to book an appointment,” Kirkbride said. The number is x3-4481.

For Katherine A. Bourzac G, getting a flu shot at MIT Medical was an easy process. “The experience was simple,” she said. “You didn’t have to wait in line. It took about three minutes.”

Jennifer T. Frazer G agreed that MIT Medical provided a good service for students. When asked the important question of whether getting the flu shot hurt, Frazer smiled. “The nurse was really good. It was probably the least painful shot I’ve ever gotten,” she said.

Jessica E. Hinel ’05 and Daniel Greenbaum G said they plan to get vaccinated within the next few weeks.

Joanna M. Natsios ’05 is not planning on getting the shot. “I’m not a big fan of shots, and I don’t get sick that often to really worry about it,” she said.

Courtney Rothrock ’06 is also not going to get the flu shot. “I didn’t know they were giving them out, and I’ve never gotten one before,” she said. This year, Rothrock isn’t going to make an exception, she said.

Dorms big target for flu virus

“As of last Wednesday, we’ve had three cases of flu so far this year,” Kirkbride said.

“Because of the living conditions, it is a little bit different than if you are living with your family,” Kirkbride said. “It’s important for a student to make the time to get a flu shot. It doesn’t take very long, and we can schedule it at your convenience.”

Forgues agrees with Kirkbride. “The flu virus is usually carried through the air,” she said. “The moisture from an infected person’s mouth and respiratory system can be carried through the air to you -- it’s one of the ways viruses can get transferred -- and close living conditions in a dormitory may make you more susceptible to the flu,” Forgues said.

Enjoying a healthy lifestyle -- getting enough sleep, eating balanced and regular meals, avoiding cigarette smoke and alcohol, which can lower the immune system, and exercising daily -- will go far in keeping the flu virus at bay, Forgues said.

Frequent hand washing is also an important part of avoiding the flu virus. “I always recommend hand washing, which is a low-tech and really important technique,” Kirkbride said.

Flu frequent cause of death

The flu is the most frequent cause of death from a vaccine-preventable disease in the United States, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. About 36,000 Americans die from influenza-associated deaths and approximately 114,000 influenza patients are hospitalized each year, according to CDC figures.

Although most people that die from influenza-associated illnesses are older than 65, there are many others who should also think about getting the flu shot, the CDC says.

The CDC recommends that “adults and children with conditions like asthma, diabetes, heart disease, and kidney disease” get the flu vaccine, along with people with HIV/AIDS, pregnant women, and children between the ages of 6 months to 23 months.

Healthy people with active lifestyles can also benefit from the protection the vaccine has to offer, according to the CDC.

Flu sufferers should see a doctor

Flu sufferers may have muscle aches, high fever, chills, headache, fatigue, and sometimes nausea and vomiting, Forgues said. A cough, sore throat, or runny nose might be symptoms of the flu, she said, and all of these signs may range from very mild to very severe.

Forgues recommends that people with advanced flu symptoms see their physicians. These symptoms could include, “a fever over 101 degrees Fahrenheit that lasts for two to three days, dizziness, which could indicate dehydration, a sore throat that lasts longer than four to five days, or a persistent cough that lasts for two weeks,” Forgues said.

For people with the flu, MIT Medical will help treat the symptoms of the virus, but will not prescribe antibiotics to patients, Forgues said. “Antibiotics cannot cure the flu and we do not treat viruses with them,” she said.