Students prepare for flu season

Michael Johnson
Contributing Writer

Flu season has returned, and vaccinations are essential to containing the spread of both the swine flu and other virus strains, which were declared to be at pandemic levels last year by the World Health Organization.

While the height of the flu season is not expected to arrive until January or February, medical professionals are urging people to get vaccinated as early as possible.

Betty Reppert, associate director at University Student Health Services, said that although it’s hard to predict when the flu season will hit hard – and how many will be affected – USHS is prepared.

“We are actively promoting the flu vaccine and have already given over 600 doses to students,” Reppert said.  “In addition, we just received 1,000 more of the injectable vaccine and 400 doses of the nasal spray vaccine. We have more vaccine on order.”

VCU student James Chen got his flu shot in late September at Kroger, opting not to wait around for the flu season to get fully underway.

“I didn’t want to risk not getting one,” Chen said.  “Especially since I live on a college campus with so many students in a relatively small area.”

Reppert says last year was unusual, in that the USHS clinics saw more than 600 cases of the flu, double the rate of a typical year.

Dr. Linda Hancock, director at the VCU Wellness Resource Center, wants everyone to know the vaccines are available and students should get vaccinated.

“The new vaccines and FluMists are in, both of which are free to students,” Hancock said.  FluMist is a nasal spray vaccine and an alternative to the traditional injection. Both are available during clinic immunization hours, which are located on The Well’s website.

The 2009 season saw the first influenza pandemic in 40 years, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  The CDC expects the H1N1 strain will return, although it is unclear how widespread strains of the virus will be.

The Virginia Department of Health’s weekly Influenza-Like Illness (ILI) Report, Virginia is experiencing sporadic cases – a score of one on a scale of four. This time last year, the number was four, indicating a widespread outbreak across the state.

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