by Samantha stark
“You will just feel a slight poke,” said Suzanne Stroup, registered nurse at Hendrix Health Clinic and Counseling Center. “See? It didn’t hurt a bit, did it?”
The flu affects millions, hospitalizes 200,000 and kills 36,000 every season in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, though the range varies greatly each year. Most of the flu outbreaks are attributed to the influenza A-H3N2 strain.
“We strongly encourage students to get the flu shot as it provides protection against the flu,” said Stroup. “(It) prevents missing several days of classes with up to a week of symptoms — including severe headache, muscle aches, fever, chills, fatigue, runny or stuffy nose and cough.”
Last Tuesday, Hendrix provided a walk-in flu shot clinic from 9 a.m. – 3 p.m. for MSUM students. By providing a picture ID (Dragon ID is accepted) and proof of insurance, students were able to receive a shot with no appointment and no cost upfront. Those students without insurance will pay $50, though Hendrix hasn’t had any students with this issue.
More than 118 million doses of 2015-16 flu vaccines have been distributed thus far in the U.S., according to CDC.
Stroup said Hendrix has provided 125 flu vaccines so far this fall. In previous years, they have provided over 300 annually. Hendrix still provides the shot at anytime with an appointment, but will provide a second walk-in flu shot clinic Nov. 18 at 9 a.m. – 3 p.m. with no appointment needed.
“Flu shots given now will offer protection from the flu, a contagious disease that usually occurs between October and May,” Stroup said, adding that it takes about two weeks for protection to develop after vaccination and protection lasts through flu season.
The vaccine offered at Hendrix is an inactivated virus that cannot transmit infection, so those who get sick after receiving a flu vaccination were going to get sick anyway.
There is a common misconception that the shot caused the illness, but the flu shot introduces your body to the dead virus so that it can develop a proper immune response in case the individual encounters the live virus later on in the flu season.
“You don’t get the flu from getting vaccinated,” Stroup said. “There are many flu viruses and they are always changing.”
Each year, a new flu vaccine is made to protect against three to four viruses that are likely to cause illness in the upcoming flu season.
But even when the vaccine doesn’t match these viruses, it may still provide protection, Stroup added.
The CDC announced in September that the 2015 flu vaccine is more effective than last year’s because it can protect people from more flu virus strains.
Last year, the U.S. experienced a severe flu season due to the vaccine’s lack of protection against the H3N2 strain, which was not detected early enough to be included in the vaccine. The H3N2 strain became the most dominant strain of the season, rendering the 2014 vaccine only 13 percent effective.
Hendrix employees encourage students to take additional measures to prevent against the flu beyond the shot.
“The flu is caused by influenza viruses and spread by coughing, sneezing and close contact,” Stroup said. “Good hand washing and getting vaccinated are key factors in preventing the spread of influenza.”
There are currently no cases of the flu reported on campus, however Stroup said it’s the “perfect time to get immunized before the holiday season.”
The flu can lead to pneumonia and blood infections, and can cause diarrhea and seizures in children.
“I think every student would get vaccinated against the flu if they understood that missing a week of school with illness can be very difficult in college,” Stroup said, “(and) spreading it to another person (can cause) potential serious problems for those with weakened immune systems, children or the elderly, who are at greatest risk.”
For more information, visit the Hendrix website at mnstate.edu/Hendrix, call at 218-477-2211 or drop-in to the on campus clinic.