Ah, dorm life. The first couple weeks of Freshman year are debatably the most hypersocial time of your college career. You may binge on your newfound freedom and spend every waking moment with your new group of friends or partying until you can’t remember them. Or you might have been the type that stayed inside all day, despite several knocks on the door by the RA to leave your door open to socialize. Either way, you’re heavily encouraged to get out there and meet new people.
Then someone in your group of friends gets sick, but they don’t want to miss a moment of hanging out, so they decided to socialize anyway. Next thing you know, everyone in your group is sick, and everyone brings that sickness back to their roommates, and they, in turn, make their friends sick. So begins the annual event known as the Radford Plague.
You’re almost never alone in a dorm. You may wash your hands on the hour, or take a cocktail of immune boosters to keep you healthy, but your roommate might not be, and that makes you just as vulnerable.
With flu season coming up, you can protect yourself from the second Radford Plague by getting vaccinated and encouraging your friends to do the same.
Flu shots are the subject of some controversy, with critics questioning its effectiveness, as well as any number of government conspiracy theories to control the population. Such absurdities won’t be gratified here, but it’s important to understand how the vaccine works before judging whether it’s right for you.
When you get vaccinated, you’re injected with dead influenza particles, which your body then learns to make antibodies to protect against. So when you actually do come in contact with the virus, you’re already prepared to beat it. The reason some may not find it effective is because the CDC provides a flu shot for what it believes will be the most common strain of the flu, but this may not be the strain you contract. As such, the flu vaccine can never be 100% effective.
For those afraid of needles, the flu vaccine is also available in nasal spray form. Initial studies also seem to suggest that this form may actually be more effective than the shots.
Remember also that getting vaccinated is not only about protecting yourself. There is a small population that cannot be vaccinated. The elderly, and those with HIV and AIDS can have immune problems that prevent them from creating the antibodies to fight disease. Imagine being the one who brings a common cold to your group of friends and then finding out that a friend was immunocompromised and you inadvertently put them in the hospital. You have a responsibility to keep those around you safe, and you can do so by getting vaccinated.
This flu season, take care of yourself and your friends.