Benefits of flu shot outweigh risks

By By Alicia Williams and By Alicia Williams

By Alicia Williams

Fall has officially fallen. Leaves have turned to a colorful arrangement of vibrant reds, yellows, oranges and lime greens. The air has become cool and crisp, and snow covers the peaks of the Wasatch Mountains. With all that fall has to offer, it’s still a sign that winter is close by and a reminder to decide whether or not to get a flu shot.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Web site, the shot can be given to “anyone who wants to reduce their chances of getting the flu.” The shot is also recommend for high-risk individuals most susceptible to death from complications of influenza: children age six months to 19 years old, pregnant women, people over age 50, those with chronic medical conditions and those who work in health care or child care.

Sickness occurs when immune systems are weak and vulnerable. Although the flu shot is a preventative measure, it doesn’t guarantee you won’t get sick. The vaccine also has some rare, but serious side effects that should be considered before you get one.

The CDC Web site explains that you can’t get the flu from the vaccination, because the viruses are inactive, but you can still get flu-like symptoms, usually lasting one to two days. An Aug. 8 report by the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices Morbidity and Mortality lists reaction symptoms of fever, seizures and muscle pain and weakness. Most often, people complain of soreness at the injection spot caused by the immune system creating antibodies, which ultimately fight off the strains of viruses found in the vaccine.

However, one in every 100,000 people can develop Guillain-Barré Syndrome, which causes the body to damage its own nerve cells, creating muscle weakness and paralysis that can last for months or even be permanent. Five percent of people who develop GBS die.

The best way to avoid getting sick is to practice good hygiene habits and be health conscious. Get plenty of sleep, wash your hands, exercise, minimize stress, drink lots of water and eat healthfully. By keeping your immune system strong and healthy you naturally eliminate susceptibility to infections.

For college students these are very difficult habits to incorporate into daily life. Sleep is nonexistent, stress is abundant and time is the most valuable commodity we have. Trying to fit in exercise between work, classes and homework, and eating healthfully on the go take major organizational skills, but the reward far outweighs the effort.

Vicki Judd, Student Health Services medical director, said students should get the shot, as they are susceptible to flu and colds because they are confined together.

“It’s the most common reason for students to miss school during the flu season. It takes an average cold about 10 days before it resolves,” Judd said. “It’s recommended for everyone who is in close contact or confined quarters like students are. It’s worthwhile to consider getting a flu shot just because you’re going to pass it around and it’s going to infect and affect your performance and your ability to be successful as a student.”

Several different flu viruses were chosen last year in a prediction of what will most likely affect our area this flu season. When they match the vaccine to the correct strain of virus, the CDC Web site reports the vaccination prevents influenza in 70 to 90 percent of people age 65 and younger.

That is exactly what happened last flu season8212;they missed the mark and U students felt the effects. The Student Health Services reported they had treated only one student between November 2007 and the beginning of February 2008 for influenza. By the end of February they had treated 13 cases. The vaccine only covers a few different strains of the virus and often new and improved strains emerge, which makes the shot ineffective.

If you’re considering the flu shot, remember that it isn’t a guarantee and there might be some side effects. Judd recommends students participate in the U’s Wellness Week, where up to 400 flu shots will be administered for free to students with a UCard. Shots will cost students $15 after the 400 shots are administered.

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Alicia Williams

Kevin Merriman