Watch out for widespread flu activity

Watch out for widespread flu activity

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Aches, body chills and vomiting are just a few of the delights enjoyed by individuals who have caught the flu. Health services  has not reported any new cases of influenza on campus during the week of Jan. 4, but this number is expected to go up as students, faculty and staff return to campus for the spring semester.

In Idaho and many other states nationwide widespread flu activity has been reported. Flu season officially began with the first reported case in Idaho on Oct. 1 and since then eight influenza-related deaths have been reported, all in individuals over the age of 50.

Typically Idaho sees up to 12 influenza-related deaths per year, but in 2003-2004, a particularly severe year, a reported 28 deaths due to influenza.

Although the flu is generally most severe in the very young or old, being college-aged doesn’t mean students won’t catch the flu and suffer from the side effects.

The first reported case of influenza on campus was Nov. 26. Health Services stated at the time there was no evidence of a widespread outbreak, but that they would continue to monitor the situation.

Before school let out for winter break, Health Services reminded students to get a flu shot.

Flu shots are available at the Health Center, located on the second floor of the Norco building. No appointment is necessary, but students do need to bring a valid student ID and insurance card.

According to Health Services, “(The)Student Health Insurance Plan (SHIP) covers cost of vaccine at 100 percent when provided at the Health Center. Other types of insurance will be billed and any balance not paid by insurance will be billed to the student.” After receiving the flu shot it takes roughly two weeks for the body to begin to develop the anti-bodies which protect the body against the flu virus. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) cautions anyone with a fever and moderate to severe illness should wait to receive the vaccine until they’re feeling better.

Remember, however, the flu shot is not a guaranteed safe-guard from illness. The effectiveness from the shot can vary based on age, risk group and how closely the virus used to make the shot and the circulating strains match.

The CDC explains the flu virus is constantly changing, either from season to season or even during the flu season, it is referred to as,
“antigenic drift.”

The viruses picked to use in vaccines are selected months in advance which can result in a poor match. Even when a poor match is made, the CDC urges people to receive the shot as the shot will still encourage the body to produce protection against similar viruses.

“Findings from early data suggest that this season’s vaccine so far is reducing the risk of having to go to the doctor for influenza by about 60 percent for vaccinated people,” the CDC reports.

Although this doesn’t mean the flu shot will be a cure-all for students worried about missing classes due to illness, the CDC does state, “Influenza vaccination, even with moderate effectiveness of about 60 percent, has been shown to also reduce the following: flu-related illness, antibiotic use, time lost from work, hospitalizations, and deaths.”

After receiving the vaccine there are a few side effects to be aware of. Some may mistake the side effects for flu symptoms, as they range from soreness, redness and swelling where the shot was given, low-grade fever and body aches. If experienced at all these side effects should last only one to two days. The shot does not result in recipients actually receiving the living flu virus, but instead is composed of killed or inactivated viruses.

Individuals sick with flu-like symptoms can go to the Health Services website and read up on “Be Smart Tips” to keep from infecting friends, professors and classmates around campus. It is important to remember, even with the sometimes controversial attendance policies on campus the best way to prevent the spread of the flu is to stay home.

Students with concerns about the flu shot or the influenza virus should contact their doctor with questions.

 

Flu vaccines available at the Health Center:

Mon, Tues, Thurs, Fri 8 a.m.-5 p.m.

Wed 10 a.m.-5 p.m.

No appointment necessary.