What you need to know about this year’s flu season

Lightmary Flores

The anticipating peak flu season, Whittier College Health and Wellness Clinic has opened its Flu Clinic on Wheels program so that students can get flu vaccinations without any appointments. 

While the influenza strain is constantly evolving and mutating, getting a shot reduces your chances of catching the flu by 50-60 percent and reduces the severity of the disease if you do contract the virus.  

“The flu itself is unpredictable,” said Whittier College Director of Health Services Stella Wohlfarth. “[But the shot’s] protective mechanisms against the influenza strain have helped lower the rates of H1N1 and other influenza viruses over the past three seasons. It’s the best way to reduce the chances that you will get seasonal flu and spread it to others.”

Despite that, Whittier College students haven’t been lining up to get their dose of preventive medicine.  “Faculty and staff are much better at getting their flu shots,” Wohlfarth said. “But it is still early in the season and we hope the numbers will increase.”

Myths and rumors that the flu shot makes you feel bad may explain some students’ wariness, but the myths have been debunked, says psychology professor Joanne Hash.  “Flu shots are often associated with a runny nose and what seems to be a cold, but this is only your body building immunity,” said Hash. “In actuality, it does not cause you to get sick. However, Hash says that there is always the possibility that you can get infected with another strain.” The flu is like the weather in Los Angeles—pretty easy to predict, but not always 100 percent accurate. This year’s shot protects against H1N1, H3N2 and the Influenza B viruses. 

In response to the advisories against the nasal spray’s ineffectiveness, Professor Hash explained that “This type of vaccine contains a live attenuated flu virus that is supposed to produce a stronger immune response but doesn’t because it is not localized. It may have been degraded due to high temperatures found in the body.”

Washing your hands, getting lots of rest, and eating a healthy diet are essential to preventing contraction of the flu, says Hash. “Younger children and older adults are at higher risk, as are individuals with chronic conditions with weaker immune systems, but college students should also consider it as well.”

The flu is miserable and once you get it, there’s nothing you can do but suffer through it, so why not take a shot at prevention?