Herd immunity is a biological concept where a majority vaccinated population inhibits the spread of disease to members of the ‘herd’ who have weakened or no immunity.
This could include young children, the elderly, pregnant women and those who can’t be vaccinated due to other health issues. Health Canada states that our flu vaccination rate should be at about 80% per cent to reap these benefits.
Yet it’s stagnated at a measly 30-40 per cent throughout the last decade.
The flu vaccine changes every year to keep up with the ever-mutating flu virus. This year’s vaccine guards against Influenza A, strains H1N1 and H2N3, and Influenza B. Many students believe that they’re healthy and don’t need to get it or it’s unlikely they’ll get the flu within the next 12 months.
But students ought to be more concerned.
Factors that weaken the immune system include stress, lack of exercise and sleep and an unbalanced diet – especially intake of sugar and carbs. Sounds just like the average student.
Speaking of stress, deadlines seem never-ending. Keeping up with classes is hard enough. For many students, staying home and patiently nursing the flu is a long shot. Opting to push through and at least to try to keep up with classes while sick may be the reasonable decision.
The flu is infectious through fluid from coughing and sneezing. Try to cover your mouth as much as possible when sick, with a tissue or a scarf. Even with the student grind in mind, it’s best that those with the flu stay home as much as they can, especially when they have a fever.
If not for yourself, stay home for those around you.
The university environment brings increased risks of infection: shared living and eating space, shared bathrooms, constant social activity. Students rotate through classrooms all day. You never know when the person before you might have sneezed in their hand and wiped it on the desk. An innocent napkin leftover in the SUB. Sharing drinks or food with roomies. All the of those doorknobs.
When the season comes, flu prevention messages seem to be everywhere. ‘Get the shot, not the flu,’ is plastered on every campus building. Vaccination clinics run on a rotating basis across campus. There’s a good chance you’ll run into a clinic at some point. The process takes maybe 15 minutes. That’s a quarter of the time we spend scrolling Instagram every day. A few minutes to save yourself the two weeks toil that could result from the flu. And the spread to those with even-weaker systems than your own.
Getting the flu shot is important, but there are also many small steps you can take to reduce the spread of illness. Many of these take little time, headspace and effort to implement.
Wash your hands whenever you can, or keep hand sanitizer in your bag. Most drugstores sell travel size hand sanitizer for one or two dollars, some even have a convenient buckle to attach to your bag. Try not to touch your face, as germs can spread through your eyes, nose and mouth.
The fact is, we are coming into contact with peers in many ways, every day, whether we like it or not.
The National Foundation of Infectious Diseases reported U.S. college vaccination rates ranging between eight to 39 per cent. This isn’t without consequence. Last winter, a New York state college was overrun by a flu breakout. What started with 10 students reporting symptoms, ended with 375 reports of influenza.