Message from Dr. Strom, Chancellor of RBHS: It's Not Too Late to Vaccinate (Flu Update)
Dec 20, 2017
To the Rutgers Community:
The holidays and winter break are upon us, and many in the Rutgers community are anticipating joyous occasions with family and friends. As we enter the holiday season, it is also important to remember that we are also entering flu season.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that 5 percent to 20 percent of the U.S. population, or about 16 million to 65 million people, contract influenza (“the flu”) each year. The CDC also estimates that each year 200,000 people require hospitalization due to the flu or flu-related complications and up to 49,000 people will die from the condition. In addition, the New Jersey Department of Health has reported an increase in influenza-like illness in our region.
The incidence of flu among college students is even higher, with 9 percent to 48 percent of the population experiencing flu-related problems during influenza outbreaks. There are also reports that this season the U.S. will see more flu cases than average. CDC data shows that some states already have widespread flu activity.
Get Your Flu Shot
Flu season can begin early in the fall and last late into the spring, so it is not too late to get a vaccination. The good news is that this year the vaccine is a good match to the flu strains that are circulating. You may have heard that the flu vaccine is not effective; however, flu vaccinations are the most effective way to prevent flu, lessen its symptoms, and cut down on its spread. It takes about two weeks for this immunity to kick in, so it is best to receive a vaccination sooner than later. The CDC also reinforces that flu vaccine cannot cause flu illness. As an epidemiologist, teacher, clinician, and former Professor of Public Health and Preventive Medicine, I strongly encourage you to get the flu vaccine. Please visit www.cdc.gov/flu and enter your zip code in the “Flu Vaccine Finder” to find a location where flu shots are given near you.
Signs and Symptoms of Colds and Flu
People who receive flu vaccine, who also contract the flu, tend to experience milder symptoms and be less contagious. Many people mistakenly believe they are too healthy to get the flu or are too busy to heed its warning signs. Please be on the lookout for the following symptoms, even if you have received the flu vaccine:
- Fever or feeling feverish/chills
- Sore throat
- Runny or stuffy nose
- Muscle or body aches
- Vomiting and diarrhea (more common in children than adults)
If you are experiencing any of these systems, and may have had exposure to the flu virus, please call your primary care office as soon as possible. They can identify the best treatment options, which may include anti-viral medications and provide advice on ways to recover quicker and help avoid spreading the flu. Additionally, please be considerate of your friends, neighbors, co-workers, and classmates, and stay home to help prevent spreading the flu.
Be a Good Neighbor
Other ways you can help stop the spread of flu and keep those around you healthy include:
- Cover coughs and sneezes with tissues or the inside of your elbow
- Wash your hands frequently or use alcohol-based hand sanitizer
- Avoid contact with sick people
- •Clean commonly shared items such as light switches, remote controls, doorknobs, and faucets
I wish everyone in the Rutgers Community a happy and safe holiday season and a healthy 2018.
Brian L. Strom, M.D., M.P.H.
Chancellor, Rutgers Biomedical and Health Sciences
Executive Vice President for Health Affairs, Rutgers University