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Many students avoid flu vaccination

November 16, 2006

The flu season is swiftly approaching, and while UW-River Falls is making preparations to combat the disease by providing vaccinations, many students seem to believe the shot is unnecessary.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), influenza (flu) is a contagious respiratory disease that can cause mild to severe disease. Anywhere between 5 to 20 percent of Americans are infected by the flu each year.

The small number of Americans affected prompts the question as to why immunization is necessary for college students.
“I’ve never gotten the flu shot and I’ve never gotten the flu,” student Sylvia Wadzinski said. 

The CDC reports that there is little need for concern about the flu now. The most current report states, “During week 44 (October 29 – November 4, 2006), a low level of influenza activity was reported in the United States.

The proportion of patient visits to sentinel providers for influenza-like illness (ILI) and the proportion of deaths attributed to pneumonia and influenza were below baseline levels.” 

According to the report, Wisconsin and Minnesota reported no activity.  However, the flu season in the United States peaks from late December through March — in UWRF terms, from finals week to halfway through spring semester.

Student Health Services (SHS) Nurse Lori Otto said the main reason students should think about getting immunized is out of concern for class attendance and performance.

“If students aren’t healthy, they’re not going to do well, period,” Otto said. “There are a lot of things in life that very well can happen. There is a possibility that you won’t get [the flu]; there is a greater possibility that you will.”

When asked if the flu would be a pressing concern for students and class disruptions this year, Otto said the illness comes in spells and UWRF is overdue for one.

SHS will host an immunization clinic Nov. 29 in the Student Center, where flu shots will be provided to students at a subsidized price of $10. For non-students and members of Pierce County, the shot will cost $25.

“The more people who get immunized, the less of a problem — a public health concern — it is,” student Keith Carl said.

Despite lack of concern by many students, the disease is contagious and could affect student life and class attendance. With record numbers of students on campus and in the residence halls, there is a greater potential for the spread of the respiratory disease. 

The CDC recommends avoiding close contact with others who may have the disease, as well as avoiding public contact for those who do contract the disease. 

The flu is spread through the air when a person coughs or sneezes, or when a person touches respiratory droplets before touching their eyes, nose or mouth.  The former is the most frequent.

The CDC recommends the vaccine as the best way to fight off the flu.  Other suggestions include covering the mouth and nose when sneezing or coughing, washing hands often to avoid the spread of germs, and refraining from frequently touching the eyes, nose or mouth.

To assist in this prevention, SHS has “Cover Your Cough” packets available in its office, which include cough drops, tissues and a multitude of other things to assist students in self-protection from catching cold.

Carl said he plans to take advantage of the vaccination when SHS offers it.

“It’s $10 — that’s cheap for ensuring that you don’t get
really ill,” Carl said.