Staying safe from the flu

February 2, 2024

The flu is currently the leading respiratory virus of concern, said Dr. Richard Friend, dean of The University of Alabama College of Community Health Sciences, which operates University Medical Center and the UA Student Health Center and Pharmacy.

In a recent interview with Tuscaloosa television station CBS 42, Friend discussed ways that University of Alabama students and employees returning to campus for the spring semester can protect themselves from the flu.

Flu (influenza) is an infectious respiratory disease that causes mild to severe illness, and serious consequences of flu infection can result in hospitalization and at times can even lead to death, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

An annual flu vaccine is recommended for everyone 6 months of age and older. Vaccination is particularly important for people who are at high risk for serious complications from the flu, including children younger than 5 years, especially children younger than 2 years, adults 65 years of age and older, pregnant women and women up to two weeks postpartum, people with certain chronic health conditions, and residents of nursing homes and other long-term care facilities.

Friend reported that in 2023, there were 7.1 million cases of flu across the country leading to 73,000 hospitalizations and 4,500 deaths. “We’ve seen a busier than normal respiratory virus season,” said Friend. “Of course, COVID-19 is still out there, but we are not seeing the numbers that we’ve seen in the past.”

Friend said UMC and SHCP have flu vaccinations available and are ready to care for patients and students who come down with the flu.

Friend encourages everyone to get vaccinated against the flu, to see their doctor if symptoms present and to practice good health hygiene measures, such as handwashing.