By Shannon McClain, Guest Columnist

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has recommended flu shots for everyone six months of age or older to protect against influenza in the United States since Feb. 24, 2010.

The CDC defines the flu shot as a vaccine that protects against three or four strains of influenza viruses for the upcoming flu season. These three or four strains are the same kind of strands researchers indicate will be most prevalent for that year.
It is important to note that the vaccine will not protect against every strain of influenza and thus does not guarantee immunity from the flu virus. In addition, it takes two weeks to become fully protected.

However, the vaccine is still very much recommended for all persons, and it is reported to be the best way to prevent the flu.
Common side effects are soreness, redness or swelling at the injection site, low-grade fever and aches.
Although the CDC recommends it, there are those out there who don’t get a flu shot. Some just don’t think about getting it, but others adamantly refuse.

For the last few years, I wouldn’t get a flu shot. I have never gotten the flu before, and I had heard that the flu shot can cause you to become sick.
This semester, I considered getting the flu shot. I am studying away for J-term, and the Wang Center recommends all study away students get the shot.

My main argument against getting the flu shot was debased when I learned more. The flu shot no longer contains an active virus. Instead, it is a dead virus, if it contains any at all. When the dead flu virus is injected into your body, it triggers your immune system to fight the virus, but the flu virus cannot fight back. The fight is rigged. When the flu virus in the vaccine was alive, there was always the chance it would beat your immune system and you would become sick. Now, your immune system prevails, and you do not end up catching the flu.

I ended up getting the flu shot this year. While some feel common side effects from the vaccine, others don’t have any at all. For me, I simply felt tired the day after.
In some rare cases after getting the flu shot, some people experience flu-like symptoms, which are mistaken as the flu. Fever, muscle aches and feelings of weakness may last one to two days after vaccination and are much milder than the actual flu.

As college students, we come into contact with a lot of people and common spaces. Living in the resident halls gives us more exposure to spreading illnesses in particular. Even those who share classroom space are vulnerable.
With every common surface we touch – doorknobs, tabletops, whiteboard markers or desks we run the risk of catching something. That is why it is so important for each individual to keep healthy.

If you do end up sick, or even if you don’t, take measures to keep yourself and other areas germ free with a few simple steps.
Cover your sneezes. Use tissues to blow your nose and dispose of the tissues promptly in a trash can. Wash your hands often. Touch your face, especially your mouth, nose and eyes, only when absolutely necessary. We all share germs, and taking care of ourselves by preventing every illness we can is just one of the ways we can be respectful of our community.

Weigh the pros and cons of the flu shot and make a conscious choice for yourself.
Either way, make sure you do everything you can to keep germs from spreading.

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