A new season brings a new strain of influenza viruses.
And barely six weeks into the fall semester, the last thing any CSUN student needs is to get wiped out by the flu. This year’s flu season officially kicks off later this month, and pushes on through March.
In the U.S. alone, nearly a quarter of a million people are hospitalized annually and more than 36,000 – mostly the elderly – die, according to officials.
While CSUN students probably will not have to deal with death, they may – unless immunized – have to cope with a great deal of misery.
“It’s like living and working in a petri dish,” said Mercedes Gallup, a board certified college health nurse, referring to the health risks associated with crowded environments like CSUN.
Spread by one person to another through respiratory droplets, influenza viruses can thrive in classrooms and dorms. “The young and healthy are still communicable to the rest of the community,” she reminded.
Gallup, a recent addition to the Klotz Student Health Center, said all students should take advantage of the flu shot. “It shortens the duration (of the flu) and jumpstarts the immune response.”
Influenza vaccine manufacturers say they expect to produce between 110 and 115 million doses of the flu shot this year. That is at least 17 million more doses than has ever been distributed in the U.S. in the past, according to an e-mail from a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention spokesperson.
A. Nelson El Amin, M.D., the medical director for the Los Angeles Department County of Health Immunization program, said increased awareness has led to the raised demand.
“It’s not out yet, but its going out as we speak,” he said, referencing the bulk of the state’s vaccine.
The immunization program’s mission is to prevent all vaccine preventable diseases.
“Anyone who wants to prevent the flu is encouraged. Anyone in a congregant environment is encouraged,” he said.
El Amin explained that the vaccines of today are much safer than in past years. In fact, he has already made an appointment to get his flu shot next week. While hand washing helps, “the flu shot is the most important thing to prevent the flu. Even if you get it ? it will be milder.”
At CSUN, most students do not dispute the fact that the flu shot is not a bad idea.
Nora Said, marketing major, said she gets sick only on rare occasions. Said, 23, considers herself a health-conscious person and said it’s important to keep up on related issues.
“If I have the time, and I’m around the health center, I would get one,” she said.
Edwin Figueroa sees things differently. Figueroa, a music industry studies major, said he has never had the flu shot, and the last time he got “really sick” was more than two years ago.
“I’d probably look past it,” said the 22-year-old, referring to the non-existent chance of him actually seeking out a flu shot. “I never saw the flu as a big deal. It’s not something I worry about.”
Student Randy Rodriguez, 20, is due for the shot. He remembers the benefit of getting his first flu shot a couple of years ago.
“You get sick, but it’s easier for you to get over it,” he said. “I’ll get one here or at my doctor.” Rodriguez said he cannot afford to miss school.
He also considers himself “at risk” because of his job at an elementary school after-school program called LA’s Best. “Kids get you sick,” Rodriguez said.
The Klotz Student Health Center will be offering two days of a walk-in flu shot clinic – first come first serve – later this month. For $15, students, faculty and staff are encouraged to visit on either Oct. 24 or Oct. 26.