Influenza prevention and guidance

From BJ Aldrich, UAF Student Health and Counseling

photoThe flu season began earlier than usual this year and remains at a high level for much of the United States. The CDC recommends vaccination for all people over six months of age and antiviral treatment as early as possible for people who get sick and are at high risk of complications from the flu.

The symptoms are fever (defined as 100 degrees Fahrenheit or higher), cough and sore throat, but may also include headache, body aches, chills, fatigue, runny nose and other symptoms.

Even if you’re not in a high-risk category, please consider precautionary measures as many others may be at high risk for flu-related complications. In addition our students living in residence halls may have a more difficult time staying away from other students who are ill.

Get vaccinated.
This year’s vaccine is showing to be about 60 percent effective against this year’s flu strain, and if you are vaccinated and still get the flu, it tends to be a milder case. For employees and dependents, flu shots are available in the community via private providers and pharmacies and are covered by the UAF insurance plan. The Fairbanks Regional Public Health Center also holds flu shot clinics around town. UAF students can come to the Student Health and Counseling Center for a free flu shot while supplies last or attend an upcoming shot clinic on campus (watch for details).

Other prevention strategies.
Washing your hands often will help protect you from germs. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub. For office functions and gatherings, please consider making hand sanitizers available. Hand sanitizer dispensers are in many UAF buildings. Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces at home, work or school, especially when someone is ill. Get plenty of sleep, manage your stress, drink plenty of fluids, and eat nutritious food. Finally, avoid people who are ill whenever possible.

If you’re sick, stay home.
Take time to rest and get well, and limit your contact with others. An infected person can spread the virus the day before getting sick and up to 5 – 7 days after becoming sick. The CDC recommends that people with influenza-like illness remain at home until at least 24 hours after they are free of fever (or signs of a fever), without the use of fever-reducing medications.

Residential students who are ill can contact their RA or RD for assistance if needed. Students who are ill should work with their professors to get assignments and provide them via email if possible. Professors might want to consider contingency plans for course delivery if they are unable to teach due to illness.

When to seek medical care.
Most people who get the flu do not require medical care. However, people in high risk groups, like small children, the elderly, pregnant women, or people with some chronic health conditions should seek care promptly. Also, if you have any of the following symptoms you should seek care: difficulty breathing or shortness of breath, pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen, sudden dizziness, confusion or severe or persistent vomiting.

Visit the Student Health and Counseling website below for information on how students can make an appointment. There is also information about resources in the community.

More information is available at the following websites: