By now, I think most have heard about how severe this year’s flu season is, but why has it landed such a tough blow? The influenza virus is versatile in that it can spontaneously evolve and develop new traits due to its small amount of genes. After being exposed to the virus, should the virus makes its way into a cell, a type of genetic material is released into the nucleus and tricks the cell into creating replications of the viruses as opposed to creating new cells. The virus will typically incubate for about two days before actual symptoms appear. Even though an individual might not present with any symptoms, individuals are even contagious a day before they present with flu-like symptoms and will remain contagious for five days after becoming sick. In addition to the fraudulent and adaptive nature of the influenza virus, the method of transmission greatly adds to the overall outcome or general state of the “flu season.” The virus is spread by the exchange of respiratory droplets in common ways such as sneezing, coughing, and talking. Furthermore, these droplets can circulate indoors by way of poor building ventilation and circulation, making the winter months a prime time for the virus to spread.
Given that we are in the homestretch of those winter months, but nevertheless still susceptible to the flu, it is important to be cognizant of your physical state and keep watch for possible symptoms and take the necessary precautions. Typical symptoms when diagnosed with influenza can include fever, cough, sore throat, and general fatigue along with headaches and/or body aches. Should you be worried of “catching” the flu and being worn down by its symptoms, fear not because there are precaution you can take to help reduce your risk of getting sick. One of the quickest precautionary measures you can take is proper vaccination against the virus. The influenza vaccine is essential to your flu defense system and fun fact, Student Health is currently offering the vaccination for free when you “like” their official Facebook page (while supplies last). After getting vaccinated, it takes about two weeks for the body to create antibodies to the vaccination; however, by then the antibodies will be able to identify and demolish any similar perpetrator to the strains it was exposed to by the vaccine. If you are debating getting the vaccine this late, data collected from 1982 to 2016 continually shows evidence that February is the peak month for the flu, so it is safe to say that it can still prove to be useful. With that being said, the success of the vaccine issued earlier year have been brought into question due to the strains that were predicted to spread in comparison to what has actually been passed around due to the genetic modifications by the virus. Essentially, most have chalked it up to a massive error in scientific prediction/calculation.
Should you not want to take the risk of getting an ineffective vaccine, there are many other habits to practice that will keep you healthy and happy. Your immune system is your first line of defense and provides the most widespread protection for your body against all strains of the flu along with other infections, and if you get sick, having a quality immune system will help you recover faster. Important factors that increase your immune function include finding ways to manage stress and getting enough sleep. One of the easiest ways to do manage both stress and sleep is planning ahead. Planning ahead allows you to spread out your workload evenly or to the best of your ability so you are not stressing last minute and losing sleep - or as much sleep - over an exam, an assignment, or project. Another option for stress management is visiting the Stressless Room located in 204 Norwood Hall, where you can find a massage chair, a light box, and a biofeedback program that represents your emotional state, all free of charge, so to speak. Additionally, nutritious food also plays a crucial role in the immune system. Citrus fruits, yogurt, and almonds are all valid choices over refined sugars, grains, and processed foods. Choosing nutritional food over processed foods, refined sugars and grains optimizes your natural ability to fight off infection.
Besides incorporating foods with the proper nutrients into your diet, getting enough vitamin D also plays a role in your immune system and overall health. Vitamin D is typically obtained from the sun in the form of UV rays, which can be a little difficult to get during the winter months. If you cannot withstand the cold temperatures or sunny days are far and few, try to incorporate foods packed with vitamin D or a daily vitamin D supplement. Besides finding ways to boost your immune system during the flu season, it is important to wash your hands regularly, avoid large and condensed crowds, and avoid coming in contact with frequently touched locations to the best of your ability. Moreover, stay away from individuals who you know are sick, even if they are starting to feel better as they still may be contagious. If none of these preventative measures work, continue to practice immune boosting habits and a prescription antiviral could possibly help in some cases. Take time to relax at home, and do not go out unless it is necessary.
All in all, the flu sucks and being sick can really put a pause on your productivity and thus impact your educational pursuits. Furthermore, complications such as phenomena can arise in conjunction with this virus if not treated properly, so do not hesitate to visit Student Health or a local Emergent-Care clinic if your condition worsens.