By: Anne Kirby, Staff Writer
As October rolls around each year, flu season comes to campus in full force. In recent years, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) has reported between five and twenty percent of people in the U.S. become infected with the influenza virus each year. Of that five to twenty percent, thousands face hospitalization and even death, resulting in nearly 10 billion dollars in medical costs. A simple vaccination reduces the risk for all such exposure and complications, and for Furman students, all it takes is a visit to the infirmary.
The CDC has a team who works diligently throughout each calendar year to prepare an effective vaccine for the upcoming flu season. In collaboration with the World Health Organization (WHO), the National Influenza Center and the Food & Drug Administration (FDA), the CDC predicts three strains of influenza A and B that are most likely to circulate in the coming months. They then grow them in chicken eggs or cells and combine the strains into one vaccine to be distributed across the nation.
Recommendations change each year based on the CDC and WHO’s assessment of the population’s needs. This is why it is important to receive the vaccine each year as it changes over time. Formerly, nasal spray flu vaccines were not recommended, but they will be available again as a form of live attenuated influenza vaccine. A number of other options are available for people of varying backgrounds and risk levels. The standard flu shot into the muscle with a needle is the most common, but some high-dose shots and shots with adjuvant (a component producing a stronger immune response) are available for the older community. Shots made of viruses grown in cell culture rather than in chicken eggs are also included now for those who are opposed to the ethical process of production. Although there are a small number of people, who should not be vaccinated, such as those younger than six months and those with specific health or life-threatening conditions, there are enough vaccination options to provide for most of the population.
Contrary to popular belief, the flu vaccine itself is not capable of infecting anyone with the virus. The strand of the virus used to build up antibodies to protect against influenza is enough to expose the body to the virus without enough strength to actually infect it. This does not mean, however, that you cannot still get the flu virus if you have the vaccination. As was seen last flu season, the CDC can predict the wrong strains of the flu, in which case the vaccine would not protect you. You can also become exposed to the flu in the two-week period following the vaccine in which immunity is building. Still, receiving the flu vaccine greatly reduces your chances of obtaining the flu virus and reduces your potential of being a risk to those around you.
As we near the end of October, experts are recommending that those who are able to receive the flu vaccination do so as soon as possible. The infirmary will offer flu shots for free throughout the season but encourages students to be vaccinated this month for the best possible preparation for the 2018-2019 flu season. Publix also offers flu shots with a reward of a $10 gift card, as well as CVS, Walgreens and a number of other pharmacies and walk-ins. For more information about the flu vaccine, contact firstname.lastname@example.org or visit Furman’s student health organization, PHOKUS, on Facebook.