A sign posted on the door of the Medford/Somerville campus’s Health Service office announced that the facility was out of stock for flu vaccines, and advised students that most other pharmacies in and around Boston do not have the vaccine either.
This news comes after the Medical Director of Tufts Health Service Dr. Margaret Higham, M.D. issued a statement earlier last week, available on the Tufts Emergency blog.
In an interview with the Daily, Higham underscored that “people shouldn’t panic” and that this year’s flu outbreak — although starting earlier — “it really isn’t anything different.”
Higham explained further that this is “not any different than the flu we’ve been seeing in the past couple years, its not the H1N1, not some new strain.” Additionally, Dr. Higham clarified that Boston’s declaraction of a Flu Emergency was “mostly to get more vaccines” and to alert citizens to preventative measures.
Other Boston-area schools are taking similar preventative measures, such as Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Northeastern, Simmons, Wellesley and Harvard offering free vaccines to their students, according to a post earlier today on Boston.com. The same post reported 700 confirmed cases of influenza in Boston.
Dr. Higham told the Daily that Health Services bought 3000 vaccines, which is more than they usually do. Higham advised students to be immunized if possible, although she said “nobody has these vaccines now.” In the blog post, Dr. Higham noted that over 40% of full-time students and employees have been immunized already.
Higham wrote in the post that any student who is sick with a fever and cough that they likely have the fly and to “stay home from classes and work until your fever is gone, rest, and use a fever medication such as acetaminophen.”
In an interview, Dr. Higham advised that “healthy people with the flu should honestly just stay home” so that their body’s immune system can work. She continued that they should take fever medication, drink fluids, and “certainly not going to class or hanging out their friends.”
Higham stated those most at risk are the elderly and those 65 years or older, which account for most of the six deaths in Boston related to the influenza outbreak according to Boston.com.
Tufts University Health Service is more concerned with those with chronic medical problems, such as severe asthma, those who are taking immune system suppressing medications, have diabetes, or are undergoing cancer treatment. Dr Higham said that “there are people like that on our campus, and we don’t all know who they are, so thats why we people should to be particularly careful.” Those with these sorts of medical needs are advised to see Health Services if they are feeling ill.
Simple habits to prevent illness include washing ones hands often, avoiding contact with those who are sick, and covering your nose and mouth when you cough or sneeze. Since fever is a common symptom of this “Type A” flu, Dr. Higham said that for students, “it’s good to have a thermometer.”
Her message on the blog also dispelled some common misconceptions, such as the vaccination will give you the flu, and that since strains of the illness change annually, people need to be vaccinated regularly. She further clarified that antibiotics will not help since influenza is a virus and not bacterial infection.
If students are ill and missing class, they should fill out the Illness Notification Form located on WebCenter.
Tufts University Health Service will be open from 8AM – 6PM on weekdays for those with further questions, although Dr. Higham told the Daily they will not be ordering more flu vaccines. For more information, visit their website or call 617-627-3592.