• By Meghan Sutrick

College students and the flu vaccine

The following is a submitted piece by Minot state nursing student Meghan Sutrick.

The year 2020 has taught us safety precautions to prevent the spread of germs and sickness. We have learned how to wash our hands, wear masks, and implement social distancing. These precautions have helped prevent the spread of COVID-19. With the fall and winter months upon us, we as a community need to continue these efforts in addition to preventing the flu. An extra measure we can take to prevent the flu that isn’t an option with COVID-19, is to get the flu vaccine. It is crucial for college campuses to have the flu vaccine available for students at their on-campus student health center. College students are at high risk for influenza because, according to the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases (NFID), “viruses are known to circulate rapidly, through constant exposure in close quarters like common living spaces, classrooms, shared restrooms, and through social activities.” Getting the flu vaccine protects not only your health, but those around you in the community and city.

During the flu season of 2018-2019, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 35.5 million people reported getting sick with the flu, 490,600 reported being hospitalized, and there were 34,200 deaths. Symptoms of the flu include fever and chills, sore throat, muscle aches, fatigue, cough, headache, and a runny or stuffy nose.

There are many similarities between the flu and COVID-19. Signs and symptoms of COVID-19 that are not evident with influenza is a change in or loss of taste or smell. Feeling flu symptoms after receiving the vaccine is common because of the body’s immune response to the virus’s antigens. This means your body is ready to identify and fight the flu if you come in contact with it. It takes about two weeks for protection to develop after vaccination. People with minor illnesses, such as the cold, may be vaccinated. Those who are moderately or severely ill should wait until they recover before getting the flu vaccine.

Minot State is offering several flu clinics throughout the month of October. Please do not attend the flu clinics if you have COVID-19 or if you are in quarantine. Flu clinics will take place on the third floor of The Dome today, Thursday, Oct. 15, 1-3 p.m. and Tuesday, Oct. 20, 1-3 p.m.

Influenza strikes between the months of October and May, so it is beneficial to receive the vaccine sooner rather than later. The CDC recommends annual vaccination for all individuals 6 months and older as the best way to reduce the chance of contracting the flu. College students, in particular, are unaware of their vulnerability to illnesses. The NFID reported that college students who get the flu on average “experience up to eight or more days of illness along with increased rates of healthcare use, school absenteeism, and impaired academic performance.” Taking precautions and increasing awareness of influenza in a community can make a difference in reducing exposure and illness of influenza.

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