Flu season begins, vaccines offered
Published: Wednesday, October 3, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, October 3, 2012 16:10
Flu season has begun. Fifteen million to 63 million people in the United States get seasonal influenza each year. More than 200,000 of those people will be hospitalized for flu-related complications, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
UCF Health Services will be kicking off flu season, which lasts from October until May, by holding free flu shot clinics for students.
Shots will be given by registered nurses in the Student Union on Wednesday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. No appointment is necessary, but be sure to bring your student ID. Shots will not be given to students who are already sick.
“Just because you’re healthy doesn’t mean you should not get the flu shot,” said Rosie Petit-Lorst, a registered medical assistant for Florida Hospital’s Centra Care.
The elderly, children, pregnant women and people with a chronic illness are especially susceptible to complications from exposure to the flu. It is important to get the vaccine if anyone in your family or close to you falls into one of those categories, said Megan Pabian, coordinator of university relations and public affairs for Health Services.
Symptoms can include high fever, head and body aches, cough, sore throat and runny nose. Unlike the common cold, the flu will keep most bedridden for a week or more, said Gerald Vega, a certified physician’s assistant for Health Services.
“We recommend that everyone get the shot. If not for themselves, then for those around them,” Vega said. “With it being free, there really is no excuse to not get it.”
The shots are available for free this year due to an increase in the mandatory health fee students pay as part of their tuition. The fee is $10.30 per credit hour, 42 cents higher than last year’s fee.
“In the past, our immunization rate has been low, around 1,500 to 2,000 vaccinations, because we’ve charged for the shot,” Pabian said. “Now it is offered free, so we expect that number to go up.”
Thousands of UCF students are treated for the flu each year, Pabian said. The university is a flu super-sentinel site, which means that during flu season it sends a minimum of five flu samples to the CDC each week to help them track and collect data on the virus. During peaks in the season, UCF sends out up to 50 samples per week.
“In order to be one of those sites, you have to see a lot of people with the flu,” Pabian said. “So the fact that we are a super-sentinel site shows you how much we see the flu.”
So how does it work?
A small amount of the virus is injected into the body causing antibodies to develop in the body about two weeks after vaccination, according to the CDC. These antibodies provide protection against infection from three strains of virus that research indicated would be the most common during the upcoming season.
“Many people think that the vaccine will make you sick,” Vega said. “It won’t. It’s actually one of the safer vaccines out there. I’ve been getting it for 40 years and I’ve never worried about getting sick.”
If a student is afraid of the pain, no need to fear, Pabian said. The shot is administered in the bicep with a very small needle, making it virtually painless. Students can expect an aching sensation in their arms for up to 24 hours after the vaccination, she said.
“Our goal is to immunize as many students as possible,” Pabian said. “We do want to caution that this is the first time we’re doing this. We hope that everyone who wants a flu shot is able to get one in the least frustrating way possible.”
If students cannot make it to either of the clinics, they are able to get the shot free of charge at any time by making an appointment with Health Services. Scheduling for flu shot appointments will begin Oct. 15.