Health 101: Avoiding the fall-time flus

Many of you know the signs and symptoms of influenza or the flu, but before the official season starts we thought it would be important to highlight key strategies to keep you well. While no confirmed cases have been reported in New Jersey yet, there have been a number of early outbreaks nationally. Each season the intensity of the flu varies depending on what flu viruses are spreading, how many people get vaccinated and how well the flu vaccine is matched to the viruses that are causing the illness (the specific strains vary from season to season). It is never too early to protect yourself, your family and your friends.
The influenza virus is present in respiratory droplets and can easily spread through coughing, sneezing and talking and can land in the mouths or noses of people nearby. While less common, influenza can also be contracted by touching a surface or object that has flu viruses on it, as flu germs can linger on surfaces for up to eight hours. Controlling the spread of the virus is made even more difficult because most healthy adults can infect others beginning one day before symptoms develop and up to five to seven days after symptoms begin.
The symptoms of a cold and the flu differ in many respects. While both are contagious viral infections of the respiratory tract, the symptoms of the flu are much more severe. The signs and symptoms of flu include: abrupt onset of a fever higher than 100 degrees, chills, sweats, muscle and body aches, fatigue, sore throat, cough, headache and respiratory congestion. People who have chronic illnesses such as asthma, diabetes or autoimmune disorders can develop more serious complications that may require hospitalization.
Even if you have had the flu in the past, there is no such thing as immunity future viruses. The single best way to prevent the flu is to get the flu vaccine each season. Approximately two weeks after vaccination, antibodies develop that protect against the influenza virus infection, which include the three flu viruses that research suggests will be the most common that year. While the timing and duration of flu season varies, most seasonal flu activity peaks in January or later.
In addition, wash your hands with warm water and soap every time you shake hands or touch a surface that may be germ-covered. Carrying an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with you at all times may be beneficial, as well as taking extra care not to touch your mouth, eyes or nose without washing your hands first. Avoid sharing glasses and utensils and be certain to wash used items in hot soapy water. To strengthen your immune system, the value of eating a balanced diet, avoiding tobacco products, engaging in regular exercise and getting seven to nine hours of sleep each night cannot be overemphasized.
If you do develop symptoms of the flu, please remember that you are contagious for approximately one week after symptoms develop.  Sneeze and cough into your elbow to prevent the spread of germs and carefully discard used tissues in a trash receptacle. Accept that your body will need rest in order to expedite recovery.
The professional staff at the Student Health Center on both campuses is prepared to help you, should you develop symptoms of the flu. For specific clinic hours on each campus, please refer to
The staff have all obtained the flu vaccine — consider getting yours today. The vaccine is available for a $20 fee and the charge can be placed on your student account, so no money is necessary at the time of your visit. Receiving the vaccine is an important step toward protecting yourself, your family and your friends.
– Student Health Center Staff

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