Clinic offers community flu shots
Pounding headaches, a sense of fatigue and an uneasy stomach aren’t just indicators of the coming stretch of exams. They’re also the beginning symptoms of influenza, an illness students are encouraged to prepare for as its most contagious season begins to ramp up.
Influenza, commonly referred to as the flu, is easily preventable but still affects anywhere from 5 to 20 percent of the population annually, resulting in about 226,000 hospital visits and 36,000 deaths yearly, according to the Centers for Disease Control. The illness spreads most frequently during flu season, defined as October through February.
Dr. Latha Brubaker, Houston Area medical director for health-care provider Concentra, said younger and elderly age groups are more at risk for the flu, but college students face unique risks, as well.
"College students are in an extremely close proximity to other students, and with (the flu) being highly contagious, it puts them at risk. It’s recommended that everyone gets the flu vaccine because anyone can be exposed," Brubaker said.
The flu is a contagious respiratory illness spread mostly from coughing and sneezing of those carrying the virus. The vaccine is approved for anyone above six months of age and works by triggering the body’s immune system.
Upon receiving the vaccine, containing an already "killed" form of the virus, the body builds antibodies to protect against similar attacks.
Brubaker recognizes the reluctance in getting vaccinated, but said much of the unwillingness comes from falsehoods surrounding the vaccine.
"I’ve found that many believe they can catch the flu from the vaccine, and this is the biggest myth. It’s an inactive virus in the vaccine, so it’s virtually impossible to get the flu itself. Another misconception is that only those in cold-weather climate can contract the illness, but the virus exists in every climate," Brubaker said.
Several pharmacies advertise vaccines in response to the flu season, but students who prefer to stay on campus can visit the University Health Center, said Chief Nurse Laura Moore.
Moore said the University Health Center offers flu shots to all students, staff and faculty. The vaccine is $16 for all patients; it is not covered by the health center’s student insurance plan. Those seeking a flu shot are required to bring a valid picture and be willing to wait 15 minutes following the injection in the event of an unexpected reaction.
Moore encourages any student who suspects they have contracted the disease to seek immediate attention.
"If someone suspects they have the flu we encourage them to come in to the health center and see one of our physicians. Sometimes you can have another illness, but symptoms mimic the flu and depending on the illness you may need different treatment than what would be given for the flu," Moore said.
Student response to receiving the vaccination was mixed.
Business sophomore James Pham said he didn’t see the need.
"Maybe I should, but I sometimes wonder if it’s blown out of proportion. I don’t think I will (get vaccinated)," Pham said.
Kelley Williams, a biology freshman, said she received the vaccination weeks ago.
"It’s something my parents remind me about, and while I haven’t gotten sick, I understand it. I’ve seen people with the flu, and it’s not something I want to go through, especially now," Williams said.