Ryerson: Students should get the flu shot, stay home if sick

a syringe and flu vaccine.

A flu vaccine. (Courtesy Government of Alberta)

Flu season is upon us and Ryerson is taking precautions to protect students and faculty.

The first flu clinic will be on campus Nov. 17, where students will be able to receive their influenza immunization for free.

According to David Jensen, spokesperson for the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care, Ontario’s flu shot program prevents up to 30,000 visits to the emergency room and 200,000 to the doctor’s office each year.

According to Jensen, post-secondary students should get the flu shot to protect themselves and those around them who may be at risk of serious influenza-related complications, such as viral pneumonia and worsening of underlying medical conditions.

Even healthy people with no known risk factors are still at risk of contracting the flu, he said.

Students are advised to get their shot early and stay home when exhibiting flu-like symptoms, according to Juannittah Kamera, Ryerson’s health promotions co-ordinator.

Kamera said students experiencing flu-like symptoms may insist on attending class to keep up their attendance and participation grades.

While there is no data available, it’s suspected many students attend class instead of taking time off, which greatly increases the risk of spreading influenza, she said.

Immunization rates for Ryerson students are not gathered, but Statistics Canada reports Toronto has rates far lower than the rest of Ontario and Canada.

Toronto’s vaccination rate dropped to 30 per cent from 40 per cent between 2005 and last year.

It is unclear why Torontonians don’t want to get their shots, but a lack of faith in the efficacy of the shots is a possible explanation.

Dr. Bryna Warshawksy, a physician with Public Health Ontario, said some people might think the shots don’t actually work.

Vaccine effectiveness, Warshawsky said, is the measure of how well a vaccine works.

The flu vaccine’s effectiveness is usually around 50 per cent, she said.

“It’s not perfect, but it’s far better than not being vaccinated.”

Flu clinics announced

The school’s health promotions department scheduled four flu-shot clinics:

  • Nov. 17 in POD60 by the Starbucks
  • Nov. 18 in TRSM 1-148 Cara Commons
  • Nov. 24 in the atrium of the Student Learning Centre
  • Nov. 25 in POD60 by the Starbucks

All clinics will run from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Where and how you can catch the flu

  • People you’re in close contact with, usually two metres away or less
  • Touching common or shared things like a keyboard, kitchen appliances, etc.
  • Shaking hands with someone who is sick

How to protect yourself

  • Get the flu shot early.
  • Stay home (If you get sick, of course)
  • Try not to touch your face. The flu virus usually enters your body through the eyes, nose or mouth.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 15 seconds. The virus can live on your hands for up to three hours.
  • If you use a hand sanitizer (gel or wipes), make sure it’s at least 60 per cent alcohol.
  • Any time you use a shared or common item, wash hands with alcohol hand wash.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Cough into your upper sleeve if you don’t have a tissue, and throw the tissue out rather than putting it in your pocket, on a desk or table.
  • On the TTC, stay away from people who are coughing, sneezing or look sick.

What you didn’t know about the flu

  • You can’t get the flu from the flu shot. Certain types of flu vaccines are made from flu viruses. But these viruses have been “inactivated” and are not infectious.
  • The virus is not airborne, it is usually transmitted through direct contact or through droplets, e.g. after a person sneezes.
  • The virus is introduced through the eyes, nose and mouth, so contact with a sick person does not mean you’ll get sick.

Sources:

Ryerson Health Promotions

Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care

Dr. Bryna Warshawsky, Public Health Ontario

This article was published in the print edition of The Ryersonian on Nov. 4, 2015.

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