SF State international student Xue Zhou, 28, an accounting major from China, gets a flu shot at the Student Health Center on campus last Friday, Jan. 25, 2013. The health center is advising students to come in and get a vaccination to avoid the flu epidemic this season. Photo by Jessica Worthington / Xpress

Elevated flu activity has reached a widespread level and with the peak of the flu season approaching, the importance of flu safety is at an all-time high.

With the Spring semester starting in the midst of the epidemic, taking the proper precautions can keep students healthy.

“Usually the way that it comes is from the east because the flu spreads easier in cold weather, but it’s generally unpredictable when it will hit a certain place. California was one of the last two states to report the flu virus,” Alastair Smith, director of student health services at SF State, said.

This season the strain is called H3N2 and has hit roughly 47 states with high levels of infection. According to the Centers for Disease Control, about 6,000 people nationwide have been hospitalized due to this virus, and about 50 percent of those reported cases were people under the age of 65.

“The flu changes every year, some years are better, some are worse. This one just happens to make people sicker,” Smith said.

Surveillance indicators have shown an increase in flu-related illness in the state and the California Department of Public Health warns that it is not too late to get a flu shot, especially considering the ferociousness of this strain.

“The best defense against the flu is getting vaccinated,” Dr. Ron Chapman, state health officer of the CDPH, said. “Our flu season may not peak for a few weeks so I encourage everyone to get vaccinated to protect themselves and those they come into contact.”

It is advised that everyone, especially those with asthma, diabetes or other high risk factors, get vaccinated.

Despite flu warnings, some students feel undisturbed and would rather not get the vaccination.

“I don’t believe in the flu shot. I drink a carton of orange juice everyday and I think thats enough,” Sophie Calzada, a 23-year-old business marketing major, said.

According to the San Francisco Department of Public Health, practicing healthy habits will help prevent the spread of the seasonal flu. Recommendations consist of washing hands frequently, coughing and sneezing into the elbow and not going into public spaces if experiencing flu-like symptoms.

Influenza is a respiratory disease caused by viruses, and unlike a common cold, they appear more suddenly. Infected people may experience all or a few of the following symptoms: sore throat, runny nose, fever, chills, body aches and sometimes an unsettled stomach.

Sociology major Laura Davila recently had a sore throat and is worried she might be getting sick.

“I work downtown. There are people from all over the world coming in and I’m afraid I might get the flu from them. You never know,” Davila said.

The flu can last anywhere from a few days to two weeks with some people suffering complications resulting in pneumonia or an ear infection.

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Ellie Loarca

Ellie Loarca