Oct 072003
 
Authors: Amy Resseguie

The leaves are changing and falling, the weather is slowly

getting colder and local medical providers are preparing for the

annual invasion of the flu virus.

Flu vaccinations will be available beginning Monday at both

Hartshorn Health Service and the Larimer County Department of

Health and Environment.

Flu season typically begins in November or December, and the

vaccine takes about two weeks to provide immunity, which is why

vaccinations are available in October, said Lisa Duggan,

immunization coordinator and infection control nurse at

Hartshorn.

An average of 36,000 Americans die every year from flu

complications, according to the LCDHE. People must get a new

vaccination every year because the virus can mutate, making a

previous immunization ineffective against the new strain.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that

people at high risk for a flu infection be immunized. These include

all people over 65, children 6 to 23 months old, adults and

children with chronic health conditions and women who will be more

than three months pregnant during flu season.

The vaccination is also recommended for anyone wishing to avoid

the disease.

“The reason we encourage college students to get a flu shot is

… because of the sheer masses of people they’re exposed to on a

daily basis,” Duggan said.

Dr. Adrienne LeBailly, director of the LCDHE, said many students

choose to get a flu shot due to its convenience.

“A lot of students don’t want to get the flu because they can’t

afford to miss classes and exams,” she said.

LeBailly said the past few flu seasons have been mild in

Colorado. Duggan said Hartshorn immunized approximately 2,000

students last winter, and saw only about 40 cases of the flu.

Duggan and LeBailly are unconcerned about running out of the

vaccine, as has been the case in the past. “It’s been bad the last

few years with availability, but this year should be fine,”

LeBailly said.

New this flu season is a nasal-spray vaccine, FluMist. It is

recommended only for healthy individuals ages 5 to 49.

FluMist is a live virus vaccine, whereas the traditional shot is

not. Therefore, the spray could potentially give someone a mild

case of the flu and possibly allow him or her to transmit the

disease to someone in the high-risk category. The Department of

Health and Environment will not be offering FluMist, because they

would like to see more of the results and effects of it in a larger

community, LeBailly said.

Hartshorn will provide the spray vaccine if students request it,

however, it is expensive; approximately $55, Duggan said. The

vaccine is ideal for “healthy, young students who really hate shots

and are willing to pay that much,” Duggan said. “If there’s enough

inquiry we’d be happy to get it for people.”

While FluMist could potentially give someone the flu, both

Duggan and LeBailly said that a flu shot cannot transmit the

disease, nor will it weaken someone’s immune system, since the

virus is inactive.

“The flu shot cannot make you sick,” Duggan said. “Everyone has

personal preferences and I certainly respect that. I would never

encourage someone to get a flu shot if they didn’t want one.”

Adam Gabriel, a freshman open option student, is not planning on

getting immunized. “I don’t like to get shots,” he said.

Gabriel has had flu shots in the past, but said he is not

concerned enough about getting sick to get the shot again. “I’m not

going to die from the flu,” he said.

The talk of SARS and West Nile seem to have made people somewhat

more concerned with their health, Duggan said.

“I’m impressed people are more aware of the flu this year and

are more concerned about it,” she said.

Other students simply want to avoid getting sick. Brittany

Schneider, a junior psychology major, plans to get a flu shot

soon.

“I’ve gotten a flu shot every year since I was little, and now I

get a lesser case, or no case of it at all,” she said. “I think it

would be good to get one earlier (in the season), because then

you’re immune for the whole season.”

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