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Special BU Flu Clinics This Week for Students, Staff

A shot remains your best bet against unusually virulent season

  • Flu clinics for students, staff this week
  • This year’s predominant strain, H3N2, most dangerous of the four seasonal flu strains
  • Tips on how to protect yourself from flu, what to do if you get it

An unusually active flu season that has sickened thousands of Americans since the beginning of October has health officials concerned. For the week ending January 13, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported widespread cases in 49 states and Puerto Rico.

To help protect BU students, faculty, and staff, the University is running several vaccination clinics this week, as well as individual vaccination by appointment. Those who have not yet received a flu shot are urged to do so.

“We’ve already started to see students with the flu,” says Judy Platt, director of Student Health Services (SHS). “A flu shot is the best way to reduce risk of contracting the virus, and in the event you do get the flu, a vaccine is likely to reduce both the virus’ duration and severity.”

The BU Occupational Health Center is offering free clinics for faculty and staff on Wednesday, January 24, from 10 am to 1 pm, and again on Thursday, January 25, from 8:30 to 11:30 am, at 930 Commonwealth Avenue, Room 1200. Student Health Services is holding a flu vaccine clinic for students on Friday, January 26, from 9 am to 3 pm, at FitRec. Students can also book an appointment for a flu shot at SHS, 881 Comm Ave, online at bu.edu/patientconnect. Flu vaccines are free for all students enrolled in the Aetna Student Health Insurance plan. Students who are enrolled in another health plan must pay $40 for the vaccine, which will be billed to their student account. They will receive a receipt to submit to their insurer for reimbursement.

On the Medical Campus, free flu shots are available for faculty, staff, and students by appointment at the Research Occupational Health Program in the Evans Building, 72 E. Concord St., Room 825. To book an appointment, call 617-414-7647.

“I would encourage faculty and staff to take advantage of the benefit” of free flu shots, says Diane Tucker, BU’s chief human resources officer. “Maintaining your health is worth a little bit of discomfort.”

The latest national data show 30 flu-related deaths among children since October 1. Based on mortality surveillance data provided by the National Center for Health Statistics on January 18, as of December 30, 2017, 453 Americans had died from pneumonia and flu, accounting for more than 8 percent of all deaths in the country. The percentage exceeded the threshold for what is considered epidemic, according to the CDC.

The latest influenza surveillance report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, covering the week ending January 13, shows widespread flu activity in 49 states and Puerto Rico

Click to enlarge image. The latest influenza surveillance report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, covering the week ending January 13, shows widespread flu activity in 49 states and Puerto Rico. Map courtesy of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

This season’s rampaging flu is owing to a particularly severe strain, H3N2. Doctors will need several more weeks of data before gauging the effectiveness of this year’s vaccine against this season’s flu strains, but the current estimate is that the vaccine reduces chances of getting the flu or of getting very sick from it by 30 percent.

Flu symptoms—fever, cough, muscle aches, headache, runny nose, sore throat, and bodily weakness—usually peak between December and February. Every summer, doctors try to predict the upcoming season’s most common strains by examining earlier-starting flu seasons, like Australia’s, and crafting vaccines to match. They predicted this year’s H3N2, but that strain mutates faster than others, rendering the vaccine less effective.

Even during more typical seasons, flu kills thousands. The CDC estimates that between 2010 and 2014, US seasonal flu-related deaths ranged from a low of 12,000 to a high of 56,000.

While children five and under, senior citizens, and pregnant women are most at risk for flu-related complications or death, this season has been more indiscriminate. For example, California reported 27 flu deaths among people younger than 65 by the end of December. The previous year, the total for those 65 and under during the same time period was just four.

Platt says that in addition to getting a flu shot, individuals should take the following steps to help prevent the flu:

  • Take care of yourself by eating nutritious foods, drinking plenty of fluids, exercising, getting enough sleep, and trying to reduce stress.
  • Wash your hands often.
  • Cough into your sleeve or a tissue, not your hands.
  • Avoid people with the flu if possible.
  • Clean areas in your home or office that you touch often, such as doors, toilets, and sink handles, with Clorox wipes or antibacterial cleansers.

If you come down with the flu:

  • Stay in bed and rest. Don’t go to crowded places—classrooms, dining halls, FitRec. Students on a University meal plan can reserve meals online for a friend to pick up and deliver. If you’re not on a meal plan, have food delivered to your residence.
  • Employees who believe they’ve caught the flu should head home.
  • Identify a flu buddy who can get your meals for you and pick up Ibuprofen or Tylenol if you need it.
  • Reach out to professors early, to alert them that you’re sick and will miss class.

A student who thinks he or she has the flu and needs additional advice can go to the SHS patient connect website, scroll down to the bottom of the page, and hit the “secure login” button. After you have logged in, you’ll be brought to the patient connect portal. Select “primary care/medical” and then select “Send a nurse a message.”  

Students who are concerned about a life-threatening medical issue should contact Boston University Police at 617-353-2121 or 911.

Check this SHS website for self-care tips.

Rich Barlow

Rich Barlow can be reached at barlowr@bu.edu.

3 Comments on Special BU Flu Clinics This Week for Students, Staff

  • Melinde on 01.23.2018 at 8:52 am

    BU community members should be told the vaccine’s true statistics. No one claims it is more than 10% effective this year. Many people think it is going to protect them, so behave in ways that endanger their health and the health of others – 90% wrong. You also can’t say it shortens the duration or severity of the illness until you have the statistics to back that up – about this mutating flu, this year, this vaccine. According to the Boston Globe, MGH emergency room staff quit rather than take the mandatory shot several years ago. Trust, get the facts, then when something doesn’t make sense, think it through.

  • Rebecca Kinraide on 01.23.2018 at 11:03 am

    Good advice overall, but I wonder why Platt is advising people to wipe down surfaces with anti-bacterial wipes, since the flu is a virus, not a bacteria. Overuse of antibacterial products leads to increasing antibiotic resistance.

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