Take advantage of a free flu shot

Flu shots will help keep you and your friends from feeling entirely under the weather.

Last year, students were encouraged to forgo receiving a flu shot because of a severe supply shortage. This year, those “priority groups” were encouraged to get the vaccine prior to Oct. 24. Now anyone can get the shot. This is particularly easy at the University through Boynton Health Service, as it has scheduled 10 free flu shot clinics for students and faculty and staff members in November and December throughout campus.

Influenza, commonly called the flu, is a respiratory virus that causes mild to severe symptoms and is highly contagious. Frequent complications include pneumonia, dehydration and worsening of chronic medical conditions such as diabetes and congestive heart failure. Each year in the United States, these complications hospitalize about 200,000 people and kill about 36,000 people. This flu is not the same as the common cold or “stomach flu” – it is a serious infectious disease.

It is also important that students understand the distinction between the flu viruses they are immunized against each year and the hype surrounding avian influenza, or “bird flu.” Avian flu has become a major problem throughout Asia and Europe’s poultry industry and has shown limited ability to spread to humans, though scientists are concerned the virus might mutate and become more infectious to humans. It is not yet a major concern in the United States, and no human vaccine is available.

This year’s flu shot is a composite vaccine of several influenza strains that U.S. scientists have determined are the prevalent ones. That means any shot given in a previous year probably will not provide adequate protection against influenza this year. In addition, the immunity the vaccine provides wears off over time.

So get a flu shot this year. It protects not only the person who receives it but also those with whom that person interacts by preventing the spread of the disease. Check Boynton’s Web site for answers to frequently asked questions about influenza and places to get free flu shots this fall. Standing in line for a shot might mean the difference between having some really miserable days this winter and being able to stay active and healthy.