The leaves start changing colors, the air is crisp and it is already that time of year again – flu season.
Student Health Services is offering vaccination clinics this week available to all registered students – no appointments are required. Students on the Student Health Insurance Plan (SHIP) can receive the vaccine for a reduced price of $25 and all other students with private plans can get it for $35. Charges will be billed to students‘ campus accounts. Students who cannot make the clinic times are encouraged to schedule an individual appointment.
The health center advises all healthy people to get vaccinated, either with the flu shot or the FluMist – an intranasal spray. The spray is a good option for healthy individuals ages 2 to 49 who are not pregnant.
Unlike the injection, the spray is a live vaccine that requires one spray in each nostril. Both options are equally effective and safe, said Maureen Greenhagen, RN, patient care manager at the Cowell Health Center.
Medical director Thomas Ferguson said that in the past, the Center for Disease Control recommended prioritizing high-risk individuals, such as those with asthma and heart disease, but now the recommendation is for almost everyone to get the vaccine.
Although research does not give a guarantee that the vaccine will prevent the flu, Greenhagen said people who do develop the flu will experience milder symptoms.
“In fact, you still can get flu with the vaccine but symptoms will be milder and shorter duration which is why for students it’s such a plus,” she said.
Because college students tend to be in close proximity with others and lacking in sleep, they are very susceptible to the virus, Greenhagen said. Lecture halls, dorms and parties are easy places to pick up the flu.
“People tend to be more in close quarters because they can’t be outdoors as much [in the winter],” Greenhagen said. “Viruses just tend to spread faster when people are indoors more.“
She suggests the first thing students should always remember to do to avoid the flu is to wash their hands. Plenty of sleep, physical activity and practicing good nutrition are also important. People should cover their mouths when they cough and stay at home if they are sick to avoid spreading the illness. Students are vulnerable because they are in every situation people are told to avoid, she said.
“Our flu season is typically late in the year, November and on to February or March, but the peak is often after the students return from Thanksgiving,” Ferguson said. “They get exposed at home. That’s a bad timing for academics because that’s right before finals.“
Symptoms are sudden and include body aches in joints, extreme fatigue, weakness, dry cough, nasal congestion, general upper respiratory symptoms and high fever. All symptoms do not necessarily have to be present to be considered the flu. They last from a few days to a week and may be mild or severe.
“On the onset you can feel fine one day and the next days feel like you were hit by a truck,” Greenhagen said.
Ferguson strongly recommends staying home if sick, since the flu is easy to spread.
“When [students] get sick they have a high fever, muscle pain, a runny nose and severe cough,” Ferguson said. “Typically they feel so fatigued they have to stay home from school. If they don’t stay at home they can spread it, especially if they cough or touch somebody because the virus gets on your skin.“
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, people who should consult a physician before getting vaccinated are those with severe allergies to chicken eggs, severe reaction to an influenza vaccination, those who developed Guillain-Barré syndrome within six weeks of receiving the vaccine and children less than six months of age. People who currently have an illness with a fever should wait until they recover to get vaccinated.
Greenhagen said that the Health Center gives anywhere from 1,000 to 1,500 vaccines but would like to see more. At last Thursday’s clinic there were over 150 students, which is twice the number of people who have been to a single clinic in the past.
Of the couple hundred people who were tested at the health center for influenza A and/or B last year, there were 80 positive cases. There were no recent fatalities due to influenza.
The more people who get vaccinated, the less likely an epidemic will spread, Ferguson said.
“We have outbreaks every year and a lot of its preventable,” Ferguson said. “Interference with school is very high. It presents a nuisance for students. If they do get sick we can take care of them at the Health Center and talk to them about starting a medicine. But we recommend they stay home until their symptoms [go away].“
UC Davis Health Services holds clinics annually.
“Last year, we had a pretty good turnout,” said Justin Lok, Health Information and Outreach coordinator. “We had to reorder vaccine several times though the season.“
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