Health experts suggest university students get their flu shots as soon as possible, as the onset of flu season coincides with the stressful midterm exam period on campus.
The middle of the fall term is a time of high stress, limited sleep, fast food and tonnes of time sitting in the library with fellow students. In other words, perfect conditions to catch and spread an airborne disease like influenza or the common cold.
According to health experts, students facing these heightened risks should employ preventative measures like practicing good hygiene and seeking immunization. The benefits of this go beyond preserving individual health.
“It’s important to get the flu shot to protect yourself, but also to protect people around you,” said Tiffany Akins, a spokesperson for Vancouver Coastal Health.
“Students live and work in closer quarters than most people, and they’re prone to share drinks, lipsticks, or cigarettes, for example. All those things that maybe we don’t think about are ways you can spread illness,” Akins said.
Not just a cold
Illnesses like colds and the flu can produce similar symptoms, but flu strains can be severely harmful even for young healthy adults.
“Even healthy young adults can experience extremely severe bouts of flu and, every year, many people who figured it couldn’t happen to them end up hospitalized,” said Jennifer Gardy, an associate professor at the University of British Columbia’s School of Population and Public Health.
“Sir William Osler once said that soap, water, and common sense make the best disinfectants, and it’s really true — regular handwashing and doing things like not touching your face are surprisingly effective at preventing a lot of infectious diseases,” Gardy said.
Aside from good hygiene, there’s one very important tool people should seek out to stay healthy: vaccination.
“The flu shot may not offer perfect protection, but it’s still an incredibly important weapon in the fight against the flu,” Gardy said.
UBC students, faculty and staff can get free flu shots on Oct. 24 to 26 at the university’s student union building. Eligible B.C. residents who aren’t a part of the UBC community can also get vaccinations free of charge through the pharmacists clinic at the university’s faculty of pharmaceutical sciences. Vaccinations will be available there on Oct. 30, Nov. 1 and Nov. 7 for people enrolled in B.C.’s medical services plan.