There's still time to get vaccinated before flu season begins

Members of the Johns Hopkins community encouraged to take advantage of free flu shots

Flu vaccine

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With flu season right around the corner, members of the Johns Hopkins community are encouraged to take advantage of free flu shots being offered at campus locations.

Annual vaccination clinics for Johns Hopkins faculty and staff began earlier this month and continue through Nov. 1. Eligible spouses and same-sex domestic partners can receive flu shots as well. The schedule and additional information are available online.

Johns Hopkins staff can also receive a free flu shot through Nov. 16 by visiting the OutPatient Pharmacies located on the East Baltimore campus during designated clinic hours.

Eligible students on the university's Homewood campus can schedule an appointment at the Health and Wellness Center to receive the vaccine or visit one of the flu clinics popping up across campus through Dec. 5.

The flu is a contagious respiratory illness caused by different strains of the influenza virus. Symptoms generally include coughing, runny nose, sore throat, headache, muscle or joint aches, and fatigue, but the severity of the flu can range from mild to severe cases that lead to hospitalization or even death.

Doctors recommend that everyone 6 months and older get the flu vaccine each year to prevent the virus or reduce the seriousness if they do get sick. This year, both the injectable and nasal spray versions of the vaccine are available.

"Based on the Southern Hemisphere's recent milder flu season, which runs opposite to our flu season and often predicts the outcome here, we are anticipating a less severe flu season in the U.S. this year," says Lisa Maragakis, senior director of infection prevention for the Johns Hopkins Health System and associate professor of medicine at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. "However it's still important to get the flu vaccine now to build immunity in time for the moment flu viruses start to circulate."

The flu vaccine is updated annually to match the flu virus strains that are predicted to spread.

For parents, there's a handy guide for treating children who get the flu containing tips and best practices from Hopkins pediatrician Pranita Tamma.

"Besides the flu vaccine, we encourage everyone to practice standard infection prevention tactics such as washing your hands," Maragakis says, "or if you do get sick, covering your mouth, coughing into your sleeve, and staying home to rest and avoid spreading illness to others."