Monday, January 14, 2013

Flu trends

Well in case you hadn't read the news, or noticed all the sick people, it's a pretty bad flu season this year. It's already shaping up to be worse than 2009 in terms of total cases and the virulence is actually worse as this year's strain appears to be quite nasty.

Google's flu tracker now has data by state and by cities and is a great illustration of using our search data for public good. Google can track flu trends several weeks before healthcare data is available simply by tracking the search terms people use (see 'How does this work?')

We'll talk more about influenza, why strains vary, why you need a new vaccine every year and where pandemics come from in a later class. But for now, here's a public service announcement from the executive director of UCSB student health.

Due to the increasingly serious influenza illnesses spreading across the country, we encourage all students and staff to receive a flu shot as soon as possible. Faculty & staff are encouraged to obtain their shots from their local healthcare providers, and many retail pharmacies also offer flu shots.

Student Health will be offering special times when flu shots for students can be obtained quickly without appointments in the Student Health Classroom on Tuesdays or Fridays 1:30 - 3:30pm. 

Alternatively students may obtain flu shots at our regularly scheduled Immunization Clinics Monday - Friday 10:00 am - 12:00pm & 1:30 - 3:30 pm; check in at the designated Immunization computer in the Student Health lobby. There is no additional cost for students with UC SHIP insurance, and for other students the cost is $20 and is billed to BARC.

Symptoms of flu include fever, cough, fatigue and joint aches. Medications can be prescribed to shorten the course of the illness if treatment begins within the first 48 hours, but otherwise the treatment is rest and over-the-counter painkillers. Most cases of flu don’t need to see a doctor unless there are serious symptoms, or can come in the first 2 days of illness when prescription medications may shorten the course of illness.

Please DO NOT GO TO CLASS OR WORK when you are ill to avoid spreading illness to others! The best way prevent the spread of illness is by avoiding others when ill, covering your cough and washing your hands. You should not have intimate contact or share cups or food utensils with people who are ill. Further information can be found at and             

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