As someone who has never had his finger on the pulse of the youth (even when I was one), I continue to be only marginally familiar with current trends in pop culture. For example, I’m aware that the word “meme” is pronounced “MEEM” and not ‘ME-ME.” I also know that YG performed at this year’s Halloween concert and that (s)he/it/them is/are a musical entity that make(s) the hip-hop music. I am further slightly in the know that a show called, “The Walking Dead” is considered favorable viewing fodder for the youths. I’m going to assume the show is about zombies because I’m too scared to actually watch it.
But if the show is anything like real life, the zombies walk around with arms either dangling at their side or outstretched, their faces devoid of human expression, their clothes in tatters, searching for human brains to consume. They foolishly declare their intentions by monotonously repeating the phrase, “brains.”
As limited as their mobility may be, they are actually capable of an activity that some of our fellow Gauchos temporarily have much more difficulty engaging in: walking.
The flu has arrived at UCSB. For those who have never had it, the flu consists of sudden onset high fever (102-104 degrees), headache, cough, sore throat and intense fatigue and body aches to the point where getting off the couch to get a glass of water feels like having to carry a sumo wrestler over soft sand. This incapacitation lasts for a week. For those who have had the flu, I should have warned you at the top of the paragraph to skip to the next paragraph so as not to invoke unpleasant memories.
The bad news is that the flu kills 23,000 Americans every year. The good news is that we are not powerless against this awful illness. The flu vaccine is the single most effective measure to combat the flu. The vaccine has been around for decades and has a long safety record.
Regardless of how good a match a given year’s flu vaccine is to the circulating strains, it’s always important to get vaccinated. Even in those years where the vaccine is not a perfect match to the circulating strains, getting the vaccine can still shorten the length and lessen the severity of the flu.
Given the intense pace of the quarter system, laying in bed with the flu for a week can cause quite an academic challenge. For some students, it means seriously considering dropping classes.
If someone does get the flu, there is also a medication that can help shorten the course if started within 48 hours of symptom onset. While the typical flu illness lasts a week, this medication can shorten the course to five days. While that may not seem like a big difference, when suffering with the flu, every moment of relief is precious.
And finally, using hand sanitizers, frequent hand washing (especially before eating), coughing in your sleeve and staying home when sick are also effective at reducing not only one’s own risk of getting the flu but also keeping one’s peers from getting it.
The flu vaccine is available at Student Health. Winter break is also a good time to get the vaccine when home for the holidays.
So whether you’ve been naughty or nice, put “getting a flu shot” on the top of your winter break to-do list. That way, you can binge watch “The Walking Dead” on your terms rather than when the flu renders you incapacitated.
Dr. Ali Javanbakht is the UCSB Student Health Medical Director