As the first day of fall kicks off, this year’s flu season is right around the corner.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggests that starting at age 6 months, everyone should get an annual flu shot.
Every year, the flu spreads across college campuses nationwide. Close living spaces and shared restrooms make a college student more likely to catch the flu.
According to statistics released from the CDC, the 2017-’18 flu season resulted in more than 48.8 million illnesses and 959,000 hospitalizations — more serious than any season since the 2009 endemic.
“I really want to get my flu shot beforehand,” said Yehui Liang, a UW freshman who started to worry after seeing that a significant number of classmates were already sick. “I’m actually not kidding, I can feel the flu is coming.”
University Health Services has been offering free flu shots for years to keep students healthy. This year the flu shots are available starting September 26th.
“My concerns for students is that those that would get influenza will be probably so sick they will have difficulties certainly getting into class for a week or so,” UHS Director Bill Kinsey said. “And considering a semester is only 15 weeks, missing a week or more of school is a problem.”
UHS medical professionals also recommend students get flu shots soon since it normally is around two weeks before the vaccine takes effect.
Even though the majority of college students in U.S. colleges are aware of vaccinations’ constructive role to undergird their wellness — only 46 percent of the campus body actually get vaccinated, according to results from a 2017 NFID survey conducted among 1,005 U.S. college students.
One of the most common contributing factors is the myth: “The flu shot gives people the flu.”
“That’s a misconception,” Kinsey said. “It’s an inactivated vaccine — it is not going to give anyone any illness particular to flu.”
Yet, it is hard to predict how severe this year’s flu season will be due to a lack of information.
“We can’t really predict with accuracy how intense the season will be. We know that every year, there are many students that do get influenza and we want to help them reduce the chance that would happen,” Kinsey said.
Currently, it is not mandatory for students to get vaccinations at UW-Madison, though UHS is currently updating its vaccine policy.
“Students should stay tuned, but we will be updating those recommendations over the course of the next few months,” Kinsey said.