A lot of people have been missing school and work lately because of an outbreak of influenza.

Influenza, or the flu, is a viral infection spread through out the respiratory system.

It can happen in isolated, individual cases or have a major impact on the community.

“This type of infection spreads quickly,” Victor Cameron, a doctor at Trinity Mother Frances Hospital, said.

“Symptoms include fever, chills, muscle and joint pain, headache, sore throat, cough, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. The symptoms come suddenly and spread quickly until they run their course, and generally last for up to 10 days.”

Other illnesses can have the same symptoms and are often mistaken for influenza.

“Anyone can get the flu, but the rate of infection is the highest among children,” Stephanie Eijsink, a doctor at ETMC’s First Physicians Clinic at TJC, said.

Because this is a virus, there are no antibiotics available to fight the infection. However, there is a vaccine offered each fall that can help reduce the chance of catching the flu.

Thomas Watson, a freshman at TJC, just got over the flu.

“The worst part are the chills, headaches and fever,” Watson said. “I would have rather had the flu shot than the flu.”

Some people are apprehensive about getting vaccinated, because they believe it can cause the virus, but Eijsink said that isn’t true.

“No, it is a dead virus. You cannot get the flu from the vaccine,” Eijsink said.

Both doctors said they get their flu shot every year and recommend that students get them also.

“The vaccine is free to students and it takes about two weeks for the vaccine to build antibodies,” Eijsink said.

TJC has a clinic located on campus for students, where free flu shots are administered.

“There is no certain month where the flu is at its highest, but the winter season is the worst period,” Cameron said.

The clinic is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and is in Rogers Student Center on the second floor.

There are a lot of precautions to take to help avoid germs, which may seem inconvenient but could prevent students from catching the flu.

“Use good hygiene. Wash your hands. Don’t cough on others. Don’t share utensils,” Ejisink said.

“If you catch the flu or think you have the flu, go see your doctor, or go to the ER,” Cameron said. “Rest as much as possible until you start to feel better. Drink lots of fluids. Use aspirin for fever; and try to avoid others who have not already been exposed.”

Both doctors urge students to take the flu seriously, because people who do not run the risk of severe illness or even death.

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