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Protect yourself against flu

Published: Thursday, January 31, 2013

Updated: Thursday, January 31, 2013 19:01

The flu outbreak is more severe in 2012-13 than in previous flu seasons.  Anyone can get the flu, but pregnant women, people 65 and older, people with disabilities, people with chronic health conditions and travelers and people living abroad are more susceptible to it because of their weak immune system.  College students are also at high risk to be affected by the flu.      
Influenza, usually called the flu, is an infectious viral disease that affects the upper and/or lower respiratory tract and can be spread by coughs, sneezes or nasal secretions.  
Influenza viruses are always changing   It is important to get a flu shot each year so the body can develop immunity to the most recent strains of the virus.  
It takes 10 days to two weeks after getting a flu shot for the antibodies that provide protection against the flu viruses to develop in the body.

For the flu vaccine to protect a person depends on his or her health and age.  Usually, the flu shot works best in older children and young healthy adults.  Vaccinated people who do get the flu will have less severe symptoms and shorter time of being sick compared to those who are not vaccinated.  Stephanie Benoit, a sophomore undecided major of Jonesboro said, “I did not get the flu shot and do not plan to because I do not like needles and can just treat myself with cough syrup if I do get the flu.”   
Laura Carlisle, an Advanced Practice Nurse and assistant director at the Student Health Center said, “College students’ immune systems are fully developed but they are more prone to getting the flu due to close contact in classes and living in dorms, and students under stress does not help their health either.”

The Student Health Center and Student Nurses Association offered the flu shot for two days during the first week of classes of this semester.  
“It was a good turnout compared to the flu clinic that was in October when students had to come to the health center,” Carlisle said.

Flu shots will be given at the center until the end of the flu season. The flu shot is $15 and will only be charged to students’ accounts.

Right now the center is out of the vaccine but has placed an order for more.  The center will inform students when vaccines are restocked in the Health & Wellness section of the A-State Daily Digest.  
If students do not want to wait for vaccines to be accessible in the health center, there are flu vaccines available at local health units, doctor’s office, pharmacies, and drug stores in town.  The costs of the flu shot at these places are $17-$32.  
Most of the places accept all health insurance and walk-ins are welcome.  The least expensive place to the get the flu shot is at Target’s pharmacy.  
Many experts suggest good hand washing for at least one minute with warm soap and water, especially after coughing or sneezing, covering the nose and mouth with a tissue when coughing or sneezing, using alcohol-based hand cleaners when soap and water are not available, and avoid touching eyes, nose, or mouth.

The Arkansas Department of Health (ADH) is getting large numbers of cases of the flu and hospital care from all around the state.  “Since coming back to school for this semester there have been twenty people with positive cases of the flu on campus,” Carlisle said.


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