Kendall Dorsey ’25
If you’re anything like me, one of your friends coughed on you in the dining hall, and a few days later, you felt like your brain was coming out of your sinuses. Stumbling into the Mather bookstore right after it opened in my slippers and being immediately told that they were out of cough drops and Emergen-C was, in a word, shitty. My lectures felt very quiet last week, but they still managed to sound like a Victorian-era tuberculosis ward with everyone’s coughs and sniffles.
What makes this depressing viral cold remarkable to me is that during the year we were under strict distancing and masking protocol, cold and flu rates plummeted from their typical high. According to the CDC’s estimation of 2018-2019 statistics, the last year of flu data before the pandemic began, there were an estimated 29 million diagnosed cases of the flu and 28,000 flu-related deaths. The pandemic year lowered flu rates to an estimated 2,000 cases, an astonishingly low number compared to years before.
The flu season typically begins in October and ends in May, the coldest time of year in most American climates. There are typically multiple strains of the flu circulating at once, and these change from year to year. Flu symptoms include fever, cough, chills, and fatigue; hence why it’s considered more serious than the common cold. Flu deaths are noticeably much higher than other viral respiratory illnesses because it has the capacity to cause complications such as a bacterial infection that can result in death. People with chronic illnesses may have a higher risk of developing these complications.
While it’s great that mask-wearing and social distancing helped lower flu cases so drastically, this is hardly a practical option to limit flu cases in the years to come. The reason the recent viral cold spread so quickly among Trinity students is because we live in remarkably close quarters – I imagine I got the cold from eating lunch with my sick friends in the dining hall or sharing someone’s drink. I can only imagine the additional burden a bout of flu could bring to exhausted and stressed students at Trinity, and it may even put the lives of vulnerable students at risk.
The CDC’s strongest recommendation for avoiding the flu is getting the influenza vaccine. According to an article published by the National Institute of Health, early flu vaccines were created in the 1930s, with widespread vaccination campaigns beginning in 1945. This technology continued to develop through the end of the 20th century, and today there are several different types of flu vaccines circulating, all of which are available to read about on the CDC flu portal and other reputable sources. The most common type of vaccine is the Quadrivalent Inactivated Influenza Vaccines, which protect against the four most common strains of the flu, which change every season. It still undergoes modification every year.
According to the CDC, the flu vaccine reduces the risk of contracting influenza by 40 to 60 percent. These numbers vary from year to year and are affected by the most common strains of flu circulating that year and by personal susceptibility to the flu. The CDC strongly posits that the benefit of receiving the flu vaccine outweighs the hypothesis that one may get the flu anyway, as it can reduce the severity of symptoms, the likelihood of hospitalization, and the possibility of complications resulting in death.
The most concerning aspect of viral disease on college campuses is the speed with which it spreads from person to person. A widely vaccinated population might help curb the spread of flu in the cramped quarters in which we live. I’ve only attended Trinity for two months, but I can tell you firsthand how miserable it is to be sick in college. At home, you might have your parents make you chicken noodle soup and hold your hair back when you throw up. At school, Mucinex costs an absurd amount of money and Mather food doesn’t exactly scream “comfort.” Catching the flu is an experience I’d definitely like to avoid, and I can hopefully decrease my chances thanks to the flu vaccine.
I strongly encourage the student population at Trinity to seek out a flu vaccine, whether it be from a school-run vaccination campaign, a local hospital, or a drugstore. There is a wealth of information online about the benefits of the flu shot as well as the potential risks of contracting the flu that I highly encourage everyone to look into – it’s only a few clicks away. I want to stress the importance of making the decision you feel is best for your health and is informed by proper research. Other than that, be responsible, cover your mouth when you cough, and please bring tissues to class, no one wants to hear your gross sniffles during lectures.