Michigan State University physicians are encouraging members of the university and East Lansing community to get their influenza shot and take other safety precautions as flu season sets in.
After two winters of being protected from flu season by mask mandates and physical distancing, experts say this season might see more cases as our immune systems are reintroduced to the virus.
“We were so protected the last few years from other circulating viruses that our immune systems may not be ready to protect us from many viruses – including influenza,” MSU physician Dr. Michael Brown said.
This season’s influenza immunization protects against four strains of the virus. When choosing which strains to develop vaccinations against, experts look at data from Australia, whose flu season is earlier in the calendar year, said Dr. Pete Gulick, an associate professor of medicine in MSU's College of Osteopathic Medicine.
Besides vaccinations, doctors recommend wearing a mask when you feel sick.
“At the individual level, you can make that choice at any time," Brown said. "That’s where I think it’s directly relevant to this influenza season. If you see someone on campus wearing a mask, it may be that they’re just trying to protect others."
For the East Lansing and MSU community, this flu season may spread more quickly due to the increased number of close quarters indoor attractions on or near campus, such as sporting events. Brown said there are lots of opportunities for a virus that has infected a few people to then infect many.
Despite the rapid spread that experts anticipate due to the social patterns of college students, it is predicted that the symptoms will not lead to severe cases.
“On the positive side, same demographic of being young adults makes the population less at-risk for hospitalization and severe illness resulting in an ICU stay or death," Brown said.
Gulick, on the other hand, is concerned for the older members of the community.
“I’m just worried more in the people that are higher risk," Gulick said. "The ones that are older, the ones that are immunosuppressed, the ones that have comorbid diseases. If they get hit with the flu, they’re the ones that may be hospitalized."
MSU is offering opportunities for the community to get ahead of flu season and become prepared.
MSU spokesperson Dan Olsen said the university is being proactive. He recommends becoming vaccinated against influenza and COVID-19, washing your hands frequently and disinfecting high-touch surfaces.
“That’s something the university does frequently," Olsen said. "We increase those efforts during winter illness season. Doorknobs, exits and entries, bathrooms regularly, especially the communal bathrooms throughout our residence halls."
A vaccine clinic will be held on Nov. 16 at the Breslin Center from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., offering both influenza and COVID-19 doses. Vaccinations are also available through appointment at Olin Health Center.
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