This winter the flu has been at its worst in years. Since October, thousands of people have been affected by the flu, with a higher-than-average number of deaths to boot. In fact, almost ten percent of American deaths in early January were linked to pneumonia or influenza, marking the diseases as an epidemic for the Center of Disease Control.
While part of the blame for this uptick in the flu can be blamed on problems related to the vaccination, the fact that 53 people have died this season is both baffling and unacceptable. The flu vaccine is still passable at worst, and influenza has been reduced to the point where most people would just recommend some rest and relaxation as the cure for it. And yet, dozens of people are dying from an easily preventable and easily curable virus.
It seems as though this sort of attitude towards influenza may be the problem. Even in the states with the highest rates of vaccination, flu shots are only received by an estimated half of all people. Through a combination of factors – limited time, apathy, belief in herd immunity, etc. – Americans in particular have viewed themselves as too good to fall victim to the flu.
Even if the main demographics dying are those too young or otherwise frail to defend against the disease, a flu shot is still the vastly preferable option to falling ill. Especially for college students, the risk of getting the flu and the stress of lost time from the illness are elevated. Dorm life means that germs are shared through bathrooms, common areas and dining halls very easily, and one case of influenza can spread like wildfire across a floor. The strain of college classes means that taking a few days off to nurse oneself back to health can be fatal for the GPA.
To combat this, the University of Connecticut is among many institutions that offers free flu shots. For UConn in particular, these can be received just by going to Student Health Services. No appointment or money is required to take advantage of this.
Even if it is highly unlikely that anyone from UConn is going to get more than a miserable few days from the flu this year, there is little reason that any student should even have to face that. It is much simpler to get a flu shot and take hygienic steps to prevent the flu than to waste the time necessary to cure it.