Viewpoint: Student: Despite precautions, getting the flu still really scares me

By Travis Taylor

Before I go into how the flu has changed me, I should probably give you some background information.

I am not usually a germaphobe. I have no problem sharing drinks or eating with my hands, and I probably do not change my bed sheets often enough.

My pile of laundry grows like bamboo, and the countertops of my apartment have never been touched by a disinfecting wipe.

To avoid getting into specifics, there are more garbage bags in my living room than I have roommates.

In short, I live the life of a typical college guy, but this flu season has changed me.

Once, I walked by and ignored the hand sanitizing stations on campus. Now, I complain if they are empty. I can hardly walk across campus without making a dozen detours around sneezing and generally ill-looking people. Does it bother anyone else when people breathe too close to you?

I have eaten more fruit in the past three days than I have over the entire Christmas break. I’m starting to crave the taste of Vitamin C drink mix, and I pop vitamin tablets like candy.

I endured a flu shot in October, but now I’m wondering: how much does it really help?

The Texas Department of State Health Services website said the best way to protect yourself from the flu is to get the vaccine. The department also said the vaccine protects against the H1N1 virus, which is something I did not even know I needed to worry about.

However, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s website said the most current studies show this season’s vaccine only reduces the risk of having to go to the doctor for influenza by about 60 percent. This is encouraging, but knowing my luck, I will probably be in the “40 percent” category.

The Baylor Health Services website recommends you cover your nose and mouth when you sneeze, wash your hands with soap and water after a cough or a sneeze, and to avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth to prevent the spreading of influenza germs.

This information only made me realize how many times I touch my face in a day and how pitiful my hand-washing really is (I would need to wash my hands about four times as long as I currently do in order to meet the 20 second recommendation set by Baylor Health Services).

But despite walking around campus like Bill Murray in “What About Bob?”, it is almost impossible to avoid the inevitability that is the flu.

Recently, when I went with my girlfriend to an urgent care clinic, it was like a KGB convention. Everyone was sneaking quick glances around the waiting room wondering what other people had and whether they could catch it. If someone coughed, people moved away. Even the 2-year-olds in the play area were not above suspicion. I saw someone wearing a surgical mask like it was the latest fashion trend.

In short, I guess what I am trying to say is to avoid the flu, you have pretty much have to be Bubble Boy.

Between being sick and being a hermit, I would take a few days of lying in bed playing FIFA any day. Not that I’m taking my chances, however.

As of press time, I am not been feeling any symptoms, but I have had a scratch in the back of my throat all morning…

And allergies?

Man, do not get me started on allergies.