Jan 262006
Authors: Kristen Majors

Flu immunizations originally reserved for people with high risk factors are now available at Hartshorn Health Services to any student or faculty member.

Jane Higgins, infection control physician , said HHS has close to 200 doses remaining. Immunizations cost $15 for students and $20 for faculty and staff, and are available from 9 a.m. to noon and 1 to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Flu season can peak anytime between October and March, but often the worst hits in February, said Lisa Duggan, an infection control nurse and immunization coordinator at HHS.

"I'm confident in saying that we have not seen the peak yet," she said.

Some flu seasons prove to be far worse than others, but Duggan said this one has been very light so far.

"On campus we usually see between 30 and 50 patients a year that have the flu," she said. "Undoubtedly there's more than that. So far (this year) we have had two laboratory-tested positive cases."

Duggan said anyone 65 or older or anyone who has a chronic health condition should make sure to get a flu shot. Pregnant women and children between six months and two years of age are also considered high-risk.

The only common downside of receiving a vaccination is a sore arm resulting from the shot. A few people reported feeling a little under-the-weather for a few days following the immunization, but that is uncommon and not necessarily linked to the shot.

Every year, three predominant flu strains are put into the flu vaccine. These are chosen based on what is probable to be in the next year's flu strain. Although a vaccinated person is generally protected against the virus, he or she is not guaranteed immunity.

"If a different flu strand comes through, it may not be effective," Duggan said. "This year it's a good match from what we've seen so far."

Although the vaccination seems effective in keeping the flu away, this year's flu has not been as responsive to treatment as the strands in years past.

"(HHS) can't even use the same medicine we did last year," Duggan said . "The flu this year is resistant to it. It has changed enough to where it's not responding to that medication."

Stephanie Ninnemann, a freshman biomedical sciences major, got a flu shot because of the close living quarters on campus.

"I felt that such close confinement with other people would have a lot more spread of diseases and sicknesses," she said.

In addition to the immunization, a person can also help prevent the flu from spreading by frequent hand washing, coughing into his or her elbow instead of hand, not going to class when infected, drinking extra fluids and getting plenty of rest.

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