Washington State Department of Health reported this week that the influenza virus, or the flu, has been detected at a low level in Washington for this time of year. However, there have already been seven confirmed cases of influenza in the state, which means that flu season is indeed underway. Whitworth’s registered nurse LeAnn Dettmann said that it is not unusual to start seeing the flu going around campus at this time of the year. The virus usually peaks during February to April, which is why they stress getting flu shots now.
She said that people often get sick during the winter because as the weather turns, they start to spend more time indoors and are more likely to spread germs to one another. Contrary to popular belief, cold weather in of itself does not make you ill, she said.
“Cold weather can stress your body and causes your defenses to be weakened,” Dettmann said. “In addition to the lack of sleep and poor eating habits, students can be extremely vulnerable to picking up any cold or flu virus.”
Dettmann said that the flu is a virus that attacks your respiratory system suddenly and severely. She said patients can usually tell her the exact moment that they started feeling sick. Other symptoms of the virus include a high fever lasting three to four days, dry cough, strong headaches, severe muscle aches, extreme exhaustion and discomfort in the chest.
“The membrane of the nose and eyes are so vascular that it’s very easy to transmit the virus through the nose as well as the eyes,” Dettmann said. “Anytime you touch your face, rub your eyes or wipe your nose, you could be exposing yourself to respiratory viruses.”
Dettmann said an easy way to protect yourself from these germs are by washing your hands frequently and always sneezing or coughing into your elbow. If you already have the flu, she recommends staying in bed, drinking lots of fluids and getting some good rest.
“You see students who are so ill and look like they literally dragged themselves out of bed just to go to class,” Dettmann said. “They are then exposing the virus to everyone else sitting in that room and anyone else they come in contact with.”
Because of how contagious the flu can be, Dettmann as well as many other health advocates have urged students who have not yet gotten flu shots this fall to get one now in order to be protected this winter.
Junior Hillary Millard, nursing administrative assistant, said that a common myth about the flu shot is that it gives students the flu and makes them feel even sicker.
“There is no way that the flu vaccine can give you the flu,” Millard said. “It’s impossible.”
Millard said that the injected flu vaccines only contain dead viruses that cannot infect you because they are inactivated. She said that despite the scientific impossibility of getting the flu from the shot, the myth is persistent. People often mistake sore arms from the vaccine for flu-like symptoms. However, the virus is specially made to make your body feel like it’s getting the flu, even though it isn’t, to teach your body how to fight off and become immune to the flu.
The influenza vaccination dose is made from the following three vaccines: Influenza B as well as H1N1 and H3N2 for Swine. The vaccine will take two weeks to reach complete protection.
“Flu season peaks in early spring and around midterms,” Millard said. “It’s a horrible thing to deal with, so why not prevent it?”
No appointment is needed for students to get a flu shot. The health center is open during the week from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. and 1 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. The center will be closed during Christmas break.
For the month of November, the health center will also be hosting a flu clinic in the Hixson Union Building to make the shots more conveniently available for students. Millard said that last year was the first time they hosted a flu clinic in the HUB and they found great success in getting students vaccinated.
This year they are offering an incentive for students to get their vaccinations. From now until Christmas break, any student who visits the clinic or health center to get a flu shot will have the chance to be entered into a drawing to win 25 flex dollars. The winner will be named right before Christmas break.
Dettmann recommends getting the vaccination now before they run out.
“We started with 300 doses and now I only have 120 shots left to give out,” Dettmann said.
The next clinics are scheduled to take place Thurs. Nov. 1 from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m, and Mon. Nov. 5 from 10:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. The cost of the vaccination is $15 and can either be paid for with cash or billed on a student account.
Jennifer Ingram Staff Writer
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