University Prepares For Flu Outbreak
Published: Thursday, January 17, 2013
Updated: Thursday, January 17, 2013 01:01
As the spring semester begins, University Health Services (UHS) is preparing students and staff for this year’s flu season. Across the country, 47 states have reported massive outbreaks of influenza-related illnesses and the city of Boston has declared a public health emergency. The staff at UHS is urging students to get a flu shot if they have not done so already.
“We have seen a significant amount of flu cases globally,” said Thomas Nary, director of UHS. “Something to remember is flu seasons go in cycles. There are always going to be less severe and more severe flus … This year, the early evidence suggests that the flu season is going to be severe and that people are going to be sicker than previous years. The other aspect to consider is that this flu season has begun earlier. Usually flu season begins in February and January. This year, the first flu cases were proven to have landed in Boston in early November.”
Much to Nary’s surprise, he and the staff at UHS have not seen an above-average amount of patients since the start of the spring semester.
“There were flu cases before winter break, so we know that it is on campus,” Nary said. “Since we’ve been back, we have had a couple influenza-like illnesses … It has not been an overwhelming deluge … However, we have to go on the reports both Boston and nation-wide, that being that there is going to be a high-volume virulent strain.”
When asked if he expects the amount of cases to increase in the coming weeks, Nary said, “I would guess yes. It is a calculated guess. But because the flu season started so early, it may be the case that students had the flu or flu-like illnesses over the Winter Break and thus, the flu won’t be as aggressive in volume.”
In early January, Nary sent an email to Boston College students, writing, “All preliminary data suggests this will be a more serious than average flu season … For best results, you should get the vaccine ASAP while you’re home.”
For those who were unable to get a vaccine over winter break, UHS is offering a flu clinic for students, staff, and administrators today, Thursday, Jan. 17, from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. in the Murray Function Hall of Yawkey Center. A total of 400 flu shots are available on a first-come, first-served basis. The flu vaccine costs $25 and there is no co-pay. The claim can be billed to Harvard Pilgrim and Blue Cross of Massachusetts, Tufts, MassHealth, Fallon, and Aetna. Students with out-of-state insurance coverage can pay $25 by cash, check, or credit card, and submit the claim to their insurance provider for reimbursement. Those interested should bring their insurance cards.
To avoid the flu, Nary advises students to wash their hands frequently, keep an appropriate “social distance,” and cover their mouths when they cough.
“There are very common sense ways to avoid the flu,” Nary said. “And if you do have flu-like illnesses, come in, see us early, and make an extra effort to avoid close proximities to roommates, friends, and teammates.”
He reminds students that it is never too late to begin taking precautions against the flu.
“Even if a student hasn’t gotten a flu shot by Thursday, they can call and we’ll try to make an appointment,” Nary said. “It’s important to keep in mind, there is a nation-wide shortage of vaccines, so we can only give as much as we have, until it’s gone.”