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Protect yourself against flu

MIT Medical provides flu shots, information on how to stay healthy.
As news organizations have reported, the United States has seen an early start to this year’s flu season, combined with an especially virulent H3N2 influenza strain. But the MIT community is exceptionally well prepared, says Howard Heller, M.D., MIT Medical’s chief of medicine and an infectious disease specialist. “We administered a record number of flu shots on campus and in Lexington this fall, more than 12,000,” he notes.

But if you haven’t gotten a flu shot yet, it’s not too late, Heller emphasizes. “We’re still giving flu shots at MIT Medical, and we have plenty of vaccine in stock.”

Free flu shots are available for MIT students, employees, affiliates and retirees; for family members covered by one of the MIT health plans; and for family members of MIT Choice Health Plan who have primary care providers at MIT Medical.

To schedule an appointment for a shot in Cambridge, call 617-253-4865; to schedule an appointment in Lexington, call 781-981-7080.

Minimize illness risk

While getting a flu shot can help you avoid this year’s flu strains, it can take up to two weeks to build immunity following the shot, and no vaccine is 100 percent effective. In addition, Heller reminds the community, influenza is not the only game in town.

“There have been norovirus outbreaks around the country, and we also have the usual wintertime colds making the rounds,” he notes. “But we can all take extra precautions to avoid getting sick or spreading illnesses.”

This includes washing hands frequently and thoroughly with soap and warm water or using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer; covering coughs and sneezes with your upper sleeve or a tissue; keeping hands away from your eyes, nose and mouth; frequently cleaning surfaces that are touched by many people; and avoiding close contact with people who are sick.

If you get sick…

Symptoms of influenza may include fever, congestion, cough, sore throat, body aches, headache, chills and fatigue. Symptoms can range from very mild to quite severe. If you experience flu-like symptoms, stay home from work or school and call your primary care provider’s office or MIT’s flu line at 617-253-4865.

MIT Medical’s walk-in Urgent Care Service, on the first floor of Building E23, is open from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. daily. All benefits-eligible employees are eligible to use Urgent Care. For pediatric patients, please call ahead to find out if a pediatric clinician is available.

The latest flu-related information is available from MIT’s Flu Central, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health and the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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