Campus Readies for Flu

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The wait is over. Ready or not, the flu is here.

 

The 2012–13 flu season arrived early, finding peaks on the East Coast in late December and early January as it moved to current reports of widespread geographic Influenza activity in 48 states — California included.

 

The flu grows steadily toward an expected early February peak in California. On Jan 16 CHP conducted a survey of 12 UCSC students which raised several concerns and misconceptions about the flu. The Student Health Center has worked this season to negate the flu’s impact through vaccinations, but has now run out of shots.

 

Flu vaccines come in two forms, the more common flu shot and the newer flu nasal spray. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC) both forms transfer a small amount of Influenza virus into the body. The flu shot delivers a killed and cut-to-pieces version of the virus while the nasal mist presents a weakened, live version. The body then produces virus antibodies and creates temporary immunity from the disease.

 

This year both vaccines offer protection against the H3N2 virus, H1N1 virus and Influenza B virus. Due to constant mutating of the flu virus a flu shot offers protection for about 16 weeks, a period much shorter than standard vaccines, but surveyed students often mentioned another figure: 10 weeks, which constitute a school term of tests, work and studying and allow for little sick time.

 

“I would be in bed when I should be in school,” second-year Emily Cain said.

 

Nurse Practitioner and Patient Care Coordinator Beth Hyde works alongside the Student Health Center and provides advice to keep our students healthy.

 

“Professionally [when we talk about the flu] we’re talking about the abrupt onset of febrile illness characterized by general malaise,” Hyde said. “Three to seven days of fever, with a day of recovery for every day of fever.”

 

A fever of 101 degrees or more typically accompanies those three to seven days of the flu. To avoid those symptoms the CDC recommends several tips for everyone.
“Get vaccinated, wash your hands neurotically,” Hyde said. “Cover your nose, cover your mouth when you sneeze or cough, stay home when you have a fever, and seek medical advice if you’re seriously sick.”

 

Alarms ring for some upon hearing the first recommendation. It is the “get vaccinated” recommendation that several students express concern over.

 

“No, I don’t plan on getting one,” third-year Antonio Dorado said. “[I] heard it can make you sick.”

 

According to the CDC, “the viruses in the flu shot are killed (inactivated), so you cannot get the flu from a flu shot. The viruses in the nasal-spray vaccine are weakened and do not cause the severe symptoms that are often associated with influenza illness.”

 

The nature of an inactivated virus means the flu shot will not directly give someone Influenza. Still many students worry about the flu shot. Some claim to have become sick just days after the shot.

 

Hyde says the wait-period between vaccination and immunity for a young adult is 10–21 days.

 

“Like for this group of people who are out here,” said Hyde in an interview before shots ran out, “they’re getting their shots today because flu is on campus, and we know it, we’re diagnosing it left and right. So they may well have been exposed yesterday to the flu [or during the immunity wait-period], [then] got their flu shot today and get their flu tomorrow. But they’re gonna associate it with getting the shot.”

 

The Student Health Center on campus provides inactivated virus flu shots every flu season but do not administer the flu nasal spray. This season flu shots are 62 percent effective, which is relatively high by flu standards.

 

The shot is typically free with USHIP campus insurance, if given on campus. It is $25 for those with private or no insurance. However, the Health Center exhausted their supply and is no longer offering flu shots this season. Local Santa Cruz pharmacies may have some left to offer.

 

“We’ve given almost 2,000 [flu shots] on campus [for this season],” Hyde said. “Which is way better than other years.”

 

Hyde notes that awareness is vital in the fight against flu and hopes students will be versed in the flu and take preventative measures.

 

“For this flu season it never occurred to me that there was a flu season,” second-year Reggie Trimmingham said. “Now that I know, it would be pertinent to investigate.”