Remember the last time you had the flu? A runny nose, body aches and fever? Winter is here and the flu is back.
And now the Michigan Visiting Nurses Association is asking students: Have you gotten your flu shot? The association kicked off a week-long flu and meningitis vaccination drive yesterday in the Michigan Union. Students lined up out the door to receive the shots.
LSA junior Matt Palazzolo chose to get a flu shot to avoid getting behind in his work. “Cause I don’t want to be burdened by the flu. …You do not want to study or go to class” with the flu, he said.
University Health Service Director Robert Winfield said health care providers used to suggest flu shots only for those with the most extreme health risk, like the elderly or those with chronic diseases, like asthma, heart disease or diabetes. He said now the focus is more on preventing temporary disability due to influenza, like lost work or school time. “More and more we are seeing the influenza vaccine made available to young people,” he said.
Changed attitudes combined with more reserves of flu vaccine mean that health providers are increasingly recommending flu shots for younger people without existing health problems.
“We really do encourage people to get the influenza vaccine,” Winfield said.
Word of mouth convinced LSA freshman Jennifer Apostol to get a meningitis vaccine. “Since we do live in a residence hall, it’s a good thing to be prepared,” she said, adding that it was “just a precaution.”
The term meningitis applies to instances of infection of the fluid surrounding the brain. It can take either a bacterial or a viral form – the viral form has no vaccine, and the immunization currently available covers three of the four bacterial strains, making it about 75 percent effective.
Meningitis is more likely to strike those living in crowded settings, like college freshmen living in dorms, Winfield said. Freshmen living in dorms are almost three times as likely to contract meningitis as college-age people who do not live in dorms. The mortality rate for meningitis is 10 – 15 percent. Fifty percent of those who survive are permanently disabled and can lose fingers and feet due to gangrene or be mentally impaired, he said.
Winfield said data showing that freshmen living in dorms contract meningitis at a higher rate led the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to change its recommendations regarding the vaccine. Vaccines used to be suggested only for those traveling into countries with a high incidence of meningitis, but now the vaccine is “strongly recommended” (but not required) for all college freshmen living in residence halls.
Winfield also described the drawbacks to both shots. The meningitis vaccine costs about $80 and is good for only three to five years. Both shots also have side effects ranging from swelling and soreness at the injection site to low-grade fever. The flu vaccine has also been associated with Guillain-Barr