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As Flu gains momentum, community members urged to take precautions

Published: January 17, 2013
Section: Front Page, News


While flu season is a yearly occurrence that many are accustomed to, this season is especially vicious, with Boston seeing more than 750 cases—more than 10 times last year’s 70 cases. A few of the cases have become fatalities; the majority of victims include young children and those over the age of 65 (i.e. groups with traditionally weaker immune systems who are therefore more susceptible to the flu).

Diane Denning, Nurse Manager at the Health Center, said that the Health Center had ordered more vaccines last week, and more are still coming in.

“The problem at this point is not a flu vaccine shortage,” Denning said, explaining there are multiple places where students can get the vaccine locally; these include the Health Center, Walgreens and the Doctor’s Express Urgent Care Clinic.

Denning also urged students to obtain the vaccine as quickly as possible, citing that while the majority of students are not overly susceptible to the virus, those with cardiovascular, kidney, immuno-compromising or any other underlying health conditions are at a high risk of getting the flu, and should immediately become vaccinated.

When asked about the state of the flu in the community, Denning said that the Health Center had not seen many cases of the flu on campus, but rather flu-like illnesses. “We have seen some flu on campus, but nothing really acute,” Denning said. “The majority of samples that we have received and sent in for testing have not come back as positive for the flu.”

She added that these flu-like illnesses can create a risk of secondary infections such as pneumonia or bacterial conditions, however, and they should be looked to and treated as well.

In a “Flu Update” email to the Brandeis community, Dean of Student Life Rick Sawyer asked that students work to help limit the spread of the flu. He asked that if a student has the flu, that while the flu is active he/she “do not go to class, to meetings, to [a] campus job, or anywhere that will put [him/her] in contact with others,” and if a fever is present, “practice self-isolation until 24 hours after the fever has disappeared.”

Students are advised to cover their cough, wash hands often and avoid unnecessary holding, kissing or sharing of food, dishes or glasses with anyone who has a cold or the flu, according to the Health Center’s website; additional measures to ensure one’s health can also be found there. These are only secondary defenses, however, as Denning, Sawyer and most other sources say that the best method to prevent getting flu is to get vaccinated as soon as possible.

In response to the growing outbreak of the virus, Boston Mayor Thomas Menino declared a public health emergency for the city, urging residents to take the outbreak seriously.

The outbreak is not only hitting Massachusetts. More than 30 states have reported notably high levels of “influenza-like illnesses.” Such a widespread outbreak of the flu is especially dangerous on college campuses, where close living quarters, classes and dining facilities present a high risk of transmission and infection.