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Public Health authorities are warning that this year’s influenza (flu) season has started early and is very active. Prevent flu by getting a flu shot (vaccination) every year – it’s not too late! More than 40% of students on the Medford/Somerville campus already received a flu shot from Health Service.

The following is a letter emailed to undergraduate students and their parents containing helpful advice for everyone.

Flu Information for Students and Parents: Winter 2013Many of you are probably aware that the flu season started early this year, and flu is now present in high levels around the country.  Here in the Boston area influenza started to increase in mid to late December, and is now widespread. Flu is a miserable illness, and many people are sick for at least a week, but it is nothing to panic about.

This year’s flu is a standard type, not a new and unknown variety. It causes fever, cough, body aches, headache, nasal congestion and sore throat. Healthy young adults generally have an uncomplicated case, although people with serious chronic health conditions, including asthma, and the elderly can get sicker.

On the Medford/Somerville campus this past fall, we immunized over 40% of the full-time students as well as many employees against influenza.  Many others were immunized at home.  High levels of immunization like this help slow down the spread of flu on campus. We encourage anyone who has not been immunized to get immunized now.  It’s never too late and can keep you and people you care about from getting sick!

Despite these efforts, we expect to see more flu as students return to campus. If you get sick with a fever and cough, you likely have the flu.  Stay home from classes and work until your fever is gone, rest, and use a fever medication such as acetaminophen.  If you have asthma, diabetes, or a compromised immune system and develop flu symptoms, you should come to Health Service.

Important things you can do to help yourself and others stay healthy:

  • Wash your hands frequently or use hand sanitizer
  • Avoid close contact with those who are ill
  • Don’t touch your nose or mouth—that can spread flu germs from your hands into your body
  • Cover your mouth with your arm or sleeve when you cough or sneeze
  • Stay home if you have a fever
  • Communicate your class absence to professors with the on-line “Illness Notification Form” available in the WebCenter for Students (
  • Be sure you have a thermometer (so you can tell if you have a fever!) and acetaminophen
  • Get immunized, if you are not already

A few notes about flu vaccine:

  • It does not give you the flu
  • Flu strains change every year, so you need a new shot every year.
  • This year’s flu shot is providing good protection against the strains that are circulating
  • It is 60-85% effective. You can still get flu but it tends to be milder.  The students we have seen so far with flu were not vaccinated this fall.

Health Service has a limited number of flu shots left for students.  You can come to Health Service on week days from 9-11 and 1-4, while supplies last. Many local pharmacies also offer the vaccine.

Margaret Higham MD
Medical Director, Tufts University Health Service