Editorial, Opinion

Flu? Plague

In case you’ve failed to read your emails, there is a flu epidemic in town. Last week, Boston Mayor Thomas Menino declared a “public health emergency” in the city in response to the nationwide flu outbreak. In Boston alone, there have already been 700 reported cases of the illness, whereas this time last year the city recorded only 70 confirmed influenza infections. Reuters reported that cases of the illness are up tenfold from last year, and that hospitals are straining for space and resources. According to CBS News, there have been numerous deaths. At particular risk are children and seniors. What is usually an annual health concern now seems more like a serious plague worth fearing.

The obvious solution to this problem being the flu shot, crowds have swarmed the clinics. “Get a flu shot, it is not too late!” said Boston University Student Health Services on Jan. 8. SHS is offering flu vaccination clinics this week for $30 a jab — but has had to cancel two days of the service for lack of resources. (That is to say, they’ve run out of shots.) (Panic.)

No panic. Flu shots are said to be only 62 percent effective, according to CBS News Friday. Moreover, they take approximately two to three weeks for the body to immunize and for antibodies to develop against a strain of the flu, which is more than enough time for an individual to contract the illness — especially considering how the flu vaccine gives the body parts of inactivated flu viruses, according to flu.gov, the official website dedicated to informing the public “What to do about the flu.” You are perhaps more vulnerable to the current outbreak if you expose yourself to flu-laden vaccination and then promptly board the MBTA.

Still, a 62 percent prevention rate is better than 0 percent. Missing a week of class might be worth waiting in line for one of SHS’s under-stocked vaccination sessions. The flu vaccine is the best, if not the only prevention against the flu this season. For those of you who fear needles, there is now a nasal spray edition of flu-prevention. And even if it fails to fully prevent the sickness, it will aid in mitigating the sickness’ effects, as well as in lessening the need for antibiotic use and hospitalization, according to flu.gov. Neither the vaccine nor the nasal spray will cause the disease. In the meantime, what to do in case of vaccine shortage? Wash your hands. Get rest. The basics. Revel in the fact that you are not partially infected with a vaccine-induced flu strain.

But do read the facts and consider your options — do not join the already overpopulated club of those drastically affected by influenza.

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