The following is an open letter to the Virginia Tech community from the staff of the Schiffert Health Center:

Dear Virginia Tech students, faculty, and staff:

Flu season is upon us early this year. We are already seeing positive tests in our local community.

One of the best things you can do to protect yourself is to get vaccinated.

Virginia Tech will have several flu vaccination clinics on campus this fall.

Schiffert Health Center will sponsor an open clinic on Wednesday, Oct. 1, from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. in McComas Hall. The Department of Human Resources will also sponsor multiple clinics, and local pharmacies provide the vaccine as well.

It takes two weeks for the vaccine to become fully effective. The Centers for Disease Control recommends that everyone older than 6 months be vaccinated annually.

Hand washing, not touching the face, good nutrition, and getting plenty of rest are also important for prevention.

Flu kills thousands of Americans every year. Infected individuals are highly contagious. One can spread the virus a full day before showing any symptoms and those infected remain contagious up to a week after falling ill.

More people getting vaccinated means less flu circulating in the community. The vaccine is, on average, 65 to 75% effective, and that’s better than 0% for those who don’t get immunized.

Symptoms of flu are the sudden onset of fever greater than 100 degrees Fahrenheit, body aches, headache, cough, congestion, sore throat, and weakness. It is more severe than a typical cold and can last more than a week. It can take a month to fully recover. Antihistamines, decongestants, ibuprofen and acetaminophen can offer symptomatic relief.

The Centers for Disease Control recommends self-isolation while one has a fever and for at least 24 hours after the temperature goes below 100 degrees Fahrenheit without the use of fever-reducing agents (ibuprofen and/or acetaminophen). This includes not attending classes or labs, restaurants, entertainment or sports activities, public transportation, and even health care facilities. No health care facility can possibly see every patient in the case of a severe outbreak, and it puts other patients as well as employees at unnecessary risk of infection.

Reasons to be seen by a medical provider include fever not coming down with ibuprofen or acetaminophen, fever greater than 103 Fahrenheit, chest pain, shortness of breath, wheezing, severe facial pain, severe headache not responding to ibuprofen or acetaminophen, the onset of a rash, or symptoms that get worse again after starting to get better. These things could indicate complications such as pneumonia, meningitis, or other superimposed infections.

The treatment for flu is symptomatic. Antiviral medications are not curative and are generally not indicated in otherwise healthy individuals. The overuse of these medications leads to undesired side effects and resistance. Their use should generally be reserved for immunocompromised individuals.

Please feel free to call the Schiffert Health Center at 540-231-6444 should you have any questions.

Schiffert Health Center Staff

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