The last free, on-campus flu shot clinics for students at Binghamton University this semester will be taking place next week on Dec. 6 and Dec. 7.
The number of students at BU testing positive for the influenza virus has been on the rise, according to the Decker Student Health Services Center and the BU administration. Students are encouraged to get their flu shot to help prevent the spread of the influenza virus on campus and in the community. To receive a free vaccine through the clinic next week, students must make an appointment with the Decker Student Health Services Center online through the B-Engaged portal.
The administration noted the start of flu season in New York state in a Nov. 16 Dateline announcement, reporting that flu cases have been increasing statewide, including on campus.
Richard Moose, the medical director for Decker Student Health Services Center, described the increasing number of flu cases during the fall semester as routine.
“As is typically the case during this time of year, we are seeing additional cases, but not anything out of the ordinary,” Moose wrote. “The Decker Student Health Services Center is regularly receiving positive influenza tests back on symptomatic students examined at our office.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the influenza virus is highly contagious and can spread by respiratory droplets and can also be spread through hand-to-mouth contact. Getting a flu shot is the most effective way to prevent contracting the virus, while frequent handwashing, covering coughs, wearing a mask, disinfecting surfaces often and avoiding touching one’s face are all also highly recommended.
Symptoms of the flu usually occur suddenly, and commonly include fever, chills, body aches, cough, sore throat, runny nose, headache, general fatigue, vomiting and diarrhea. Due to the similarity of symptoms of influenza and COVID-19, the administration has emphasized the importance of getting tested for both viruses if symptoms arise. The Decker College of Nursing and Health Sciences offers free rapid nasal swab testing for both COVID-19 and the flu, available to all students on and off campus.
The administration has been encouraging students to get their flu shot through the vaccine clinics. Some students feel as though the flu shot clinics on campus have been working well.
Nicole Harrington, a senior majoring in biology, spoke about her positive experience receiving a free flu shot on campus earlier this semester.
“I think getting a flu shot is easy because I actually got the flu shot here when they were doing the clinic, and they had a bunch of [appointment] times,” Harrington said.
Not all students feel as though the University has done enough to make the flu shot easily accessible, however.
Chloe White, a senior majoring in psychology, believes BU should make access to and information about the flu shot more widely available to students.
“I feel like it might be beneficial for [BU] to send an email with information like, ‘This is where you can get your flu vaccine,’ and maybe Decker [College] making those vaccines more available,” White said. “Maybe just getting more flu vaccines and doing them how they do COVID-19 tests, in a room in the [University] Union, and you can just get one.”
While there are differing opinions on if the University has done enough to make the flu vaccine easily accessible, there are other measures in place to prevent flu transmission, like BU’s current campus mask policy.
“Of special note, compliance with our current mask-wearing policy will assist to reduce the risk of flu transmission, as it does to mitigate the spread of COVID-19,” Moose wrote.
There are additional efforts to prevent the spread of flu in on-campus housing communities as well. Casey Wall, director of Residential Life at BU, described the numerous practices that Residential Life staff has been following to prevent transmissions.
“We continue our cleaning protocol in common areas and encourage compliance with mask-wearing and social distancing in the residence halls,” Wall wrote. “We encourage students to clean and disinfect shared spaces within their room/suite regularly as well as practice good hand hygiene. We have made disposable masks available for COVID-19 (and flu prevention) use, these are available through residential community area offices.”
The administration also encouraged faculty to be supportive of students who contract the virus and must miss classes due to illness.
“[Decker Student Health Services] does not have the resources to issue medical excuses for missed classes, exams or papers,” Moose wrote. “Students are urged to report illnesses to their instructors and to make individual arrangements when illness interferes with coursework.”
Moose emphasized the importance of getting vaccinated as the University administration keeps up with their flu prevention efforts.
“The best way to prevent the flu is to get vaccinated each year,” Moose wrote. “All members of our community are encouraged to consider receiving the vaccine, and increased efforts have occurred this year to increase our reach to those desiring vaccines this year.”
Students can make appointments for a free, on-campus flu shot on Dec. 6 or Dec. 7 following the link, or by logging on to B-Engaged: https://cglink.me/2eQ/r1244804.
For more information about the flu virus, symptoms and treatment, visit the CDC, New York State Department of Health, or the Decker Student Health Services Center website.