George Mason University’s Student Health Services will be hosting flu shot clinics until early November, just in time for flu season, with $20 shots for students and $25 for staff and faculty.
The clinics will be held at the Fairfax, Arlington and Prince William campuses at varying locations and times. If students have Aetna Student Health, the shot is free at Mason. If students cannot attend the clinics, they can still go to Student Health Services to receive a shot at any time.
“All people over the age of six months are urged to get the flu vaccine,” said Carol Filak, the administrative director for Student Health Services. “So this way if people do that and they’re not getting sick it protects other people around them.”
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention suggests that people get flu shots as early as they can when they come out. This way, as Filak mentions, more people can be protected and it becomes more like a community vaccination. Filaks says there are no immediate side effects to the vaccine except possible soreness at injection site in some cases.
According to Filak, the flu, or influenza, is caused by a respiratory virus that occurs anytime between October and April of each year. There are two types of flu, A and B, that start with high fever, body aches, and fatigue and the severity ranges each year but it can be cured through antiviral drugs. The flu can often be confused with the common cold, but the common cold is a viral syndrome with about 90% nasal congestion and more subtle symptoms. It cannot be cured through antibiotics and usually lasts from 7-10 days.
The CDC estimates that 5-20% of the U.S. population gets the flu and more than 20,000 people are hospitalized from flu related complications. So far, SHS has had one confirmed case of the flu, but the CDC says the peak of flu season is not until November. The CDC also estimates that flu-related deaths could range anywhere between 3,000-49,000 people. A person can go 1-4 days after exposure without experiencing symptoms, with 2 days being the average.
“[The flu] wipes you out for a week, it really does,” Filak said. “Not only are you losing time from school and studying, but it puts you back at least a week.”
SHS purchased 700-800 shots this year, a reduction from previous years where they have ordered close to 1,000. Filak says they lowered the amount of shots because people can also get it through their insurance for free. A flu shot at a doctor’s office or pharmacy costs about $30, according to Filak. However SHS is only trying to cover their costs when it comes to their prices.
People with pre-existing or chronic health conditions can experience worse side-effects from the flu. In order to avoid contracting the illness, everyone should practice proper hand-washing and covering their mouth with the bend of their arm when they cough. Other precautionary measures include good nutrition, getting enough rest and avoiding crowded spaces, however this can be a challenge for college students.
“The circumstances of living in housing on campus, you’re in close quarters and things kind of spread quickly,” Filak said. “[Students] are more susceptible I guess because it does go very quickly, [the flu is] very contagious.”
Filak advises that if someone starts experiencing symptoms to treat them promptly, especially by staying hydrated but also to see SHS for confirmation. Confirming the illness will help students talk to their professors, according to Filak, and make accommodations.
“You don’t want to be laying in your dorm room by yourself not drinking or managing your symptoms, so you need to make sure there’s someone else to help,” Filak said.
Photo Credit: Amy Podraza