Students at a high-risk for influenza this fall are being asked to go to Hartshorn Health Service as quickly as possible.
“We must prioritize for the most high-risk patients,” said Dr. Jane Higgins, a physician consultant specializing in vaccine-preventable diseases.
This year, the only members of the CSU population eligible for a flu shot from Hartshorn are high-risk students and Hartshorn faculty.
It was announced on Oct. 5 that the United States will have only one-half of the expected supply of flu shots for this season because of suspension of the drug manufacturer Chiron Corporation’s license to produce the Fluvirin vaccine, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Web site, www.cdc.gov.
Fifty-five million flu shots will be available and 30 million have already been distributed, according to the site.
“We received 500 doses, which is a lot less than we ordered,” Higgins said. Higgins said in years past they have given 4,000 doses each year.
On Tuesday, Larimer County Health Department is meeting with area hospitals, including Hartshorn, to discuss how the shortage will be handled.
“Everyone is really affected,” said Lisa Duggan, an infection control nurse at Hartshorn.
Normal flu season is from November to March, and on campus it usually peaks around February or March, Duggan said.
Last year’s peak occurred earlier, a trend that was seen across the nation, according to the CDC.
“Last year we saw our peak in November, which was kind of unusual,” Duggan said.
Because of last year’s flu season, Higgins said Hartshorn wants to ensure the highest-risk students are vaccinated before the season begins.
High-risk students include those with diabetes, chronic asthma, any sort of immune-system suppression that could facilitate infection, those with plans to get pregnant and caregivers to children less than 6 months old, Higgins said.
Hartshorn is concerned about students.
“We want to market and send an announcement out to these students,” Higgins said.
Higgins said the health center sees the effects of every flu season.
“It’s inevitable,” she said. “We just don’t know how bad it will be.”
Brady Michel, a senior microbiology major, said he always gets a flu shot because of his asthma, which places him at a higher risk of infection.
“I plan to get my shot soon,” said Michel, who also said his doctor recommends vaccination.
For those not included in one of the priority groups, hygiene will be the most important factor in flu prevention this season.
“Get plenty of rest and wash your hands,” Duggan said. “And if you’re sick stay home. Hopefully, many won’t even get exposed.”
Currently, two flu vaccines are available – the flu shot, which is an inactivated vaccine containing the killed virus, and a nasal-spray vaccine, which contains the live, weakened virus referred to as the live attenuated influenza vaccine. There will be 1 million doses of LAIV this year, but it is only approved for healthy people 5 to 49 years old, according to the CDC site.
Symptoms of the flu include high fever, headache, tiredness, dry cough, sore throat, runny nose, muscle aches and gastro-intestinal symptoms, according to CDC site.