Free flu shots for students, tips for staying healthy

Sneezing. Coughing. The aches. Fever. These symptoms combined and you may be experiencing the flu.

Influenza, commonly known as “the flu,” is an acute respiratory illness caused by one of the strains of the influenza virus – usually type A or B – that occurs in outbreaks and epidemics worldwide, mainly during the winter season. Signs and symptoms include high fever, cough, chest congestion, general body aches and increased fatigue.  Although acutely debilitating, influenza is an infection that generally runs its course and resolves itself without the need for medical intervention in the healthy college age student.

But how do students, faculty and staff protect themselves from catching it in the first place?

Dr. Saara Schwartz“Get vaccinated,” Dr. Saraa Schwartz, medical director of Student Health Services, said. “Influenza virus constantly mutates. The flu vaccine is updated annually to keep up with the flu viruses as they change. The more people get vaccinated against the flu, the less flu can spread through that community.”

FIU will be hosting three free flu shot clinics over the next two weeks. All registered students are eligible to receive a free vaccine and cold & flu prevention kits.

  • Modesto A. Maidique Campus:
    • Thursday, Jan. 16, 9 a.m. – noon in Graham Center 150
  • Biscayne Bay Campus, in AC-I:
    • Wednesday, Jan. 22, 11 a.m. – 1:30 p.m.
    • Thursday, Jan. 23, 11 a.m. – 1:30 p.m.

Also on Dr. Schwartz’s list for prevention is good hand hygiene (washing thoroughly and often), and staying home if you are sick. If you’re already ill, cover your cough to prevent those around you from getting infected.

“Large amounts of influenza virus are often present in respiratory secretions of infected persons,” she said. “As a result, infection can be transmitted through sneezing and coughing.”

FIU’s large community also puts those who fall in high-risk at an increased chance of contracting the flu, which may present more serious complications. High-risk groups are encouraged to get vaccinated and include:

  • Age 50 or older
  • Those with chronic pulmonary conditions, such as Asthma, heart disease, sickle cell disease, diabetes, or epilepsy
  • Immunosuppressed, either because of HIV or medications such as daily steroid use
  • Women who are pregnant or will be pregnant during flu season
  • Caretakers for the elderly or infants
  • Those who are morbidly obese (body mass index ≥40)

There’s more good news for those who may be fearful of vaccines.

“There is a live virus nasal spray flu vaccine on the market,” Dr. Schwartz said. “This is not carried at SHS currently.”

Call your doctor to find out if they carry the live virus nasal spray vaccine and if you’re eligible for it.

The CDC says influenza kills about 36,000 people a year in the United States.

Students who think they may have the flu can go to Student Health Services to see a doctor and get a rapid test completed. Otherwise, stay home until you feel well enough to return to campus.

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