The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

Eau Claire prepares for flu season

Influenza season is on its way — typically expected to be in full swing Thanksgiving through Valentine’s Day, said Dr. Mark Williams, a physician at the UW-Eau Claire Student Health Service.

The best way to be protected from influenza is to be vaccinated, Williams said.  It is never too early to get a shot because it takes two weeks before the shot is completely effective and influenza mutates every year, meaning you need a new shot every year to be protected.

“In general, every year you could have a different flu, so you can never say ‘I’ve had it,’” Williams said. “Because the flu mutates so much, it makes all these strange combinations that people have to worry
about every year.”

The flu shot is designed to protect against predicted types of flu that will be occurring that year, Williams said, which is why the flu shot is not always completely effective.  Once you receive a shot, in theory, you can never become sick from that specific type of flu again but not the flu in general.

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“Anybody over the age of 6 months should be vaccinated,” he said.  “Millions of people get influenza every year, but there are always some people that get serious illnesses.”

Infants, the elderly, pregnant women and people with severe asthma, cancer, diabetes, or kidney, liver and blood disorders are all considered “high-risk” — meaning they have a higher probability to develop serious complications from the flu, according to the U.S. government’s Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

The Student Health Center does provide flu shots, but Williams encourages students who aren’t sick to go to flu shot clinics instead.

“We always recommend people go to the clinics if they can,” he said.  “If you are here (Student Health Service), there are sick people here; at flu clinics, they are all healthy people.”

Williams said the first handful of cases each year are encouraged to head to the Student Health Center for testing and potential treatment, but once there is a known outbreak, students are encouraged to stay home, get lots of rest and lots of fluids unless their symptoms are severe.

“The flu is a virus that’s spread from person to person through breathing, coughing. If you try to prevent it the standard advice is to get a vaccine.”

Symptoms of the flu, according to the Student Health Center, include a quick feeling of sickness, fever, dry cough, sore throat, body aches, chills and possible vomiting.

The flu does not classify as an authorized reason to miss class, seeing as illness-related excuses require a doctor’s note, Associate Dean of Students Jacqueline Bonneville said. She added that students should interact with their professors about missing class for viruses such as the flu instead of the Dean of Students Office.

Students are not encouraged to take a trip to the doctors’ office if they need to miss class for the flu, Bonneville said.

“I think that we definitely want to trust students’ judgment on this,” she said.  “Most professors will tell you they don’t want you coming to class and spreading whatever you have.”

Earlier in the semester, Dean of Students Brian A. Carlisle stated in an email, “It is not the practice of the Dean of Students Office to document short-term illness, medical reasons or personal reasons that have caused a student to miss class for less than three days. If the student is absent fewer than three days, it is his/her responsibility to contact his/her instructors personally, or leave a message with the department program associate.”

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Eau Claire prepares for flu season