Flu shot not only way to prevent sickness

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By Holly Huntley

By Holly Huntley

If you have a sore throat, fever, cough, stomach pain or headache, health officials are urging you not to panic…it’s just the flu.

On Oct. 5 after Chiron Corporation announced that none of the doses of influenza vaccines it has produced will be available this year, there has been a rising fear that all Americans are not going to be supplied the flu vaccine. The reality is, all Americans don’t have to be supplied, only those who are in need.

Due to this recent deficiency, the Center for Disease Control announced that only selected groups of people would be given the flu shot for the upcoming 2004-2005 flu season.

This includes children aged 6-23 months, adults aged 65 years and older, people with chronic medical conditions, pregnant women, health care workers and nursing home residents. These people stand at a high risk for serious flu complications or are in contact with people at high risk for serious flu complications; therefore, they will get priority in receiving the flu vaccine.

To ensure there is enough for those people, health officials are urging young, healthy individuals to refrain from getting the flu shot this season. The majority of students on RCC’s campus fit right into that category.

Jennifer Rush, a healthy 19-year-old student at RCC, has received the flu shot recurrently throughout her life.

“I haven’t gotten the flu shot this season because I know there is not a lot in supply,” she said. “I would rather see my dose go to children or to the elderly who need it more than I do.”

That is the exact message that health providers are trying to send: If you are not in desperate need of the flu vaccine, do not take it.

There are many alternatives to the flu shot that can be found at any local drugstore. These are commonly referred to as over-the-counter treatments. One well-recommended product is FluMist. It is a live, attenuated influenza vaccine (LAIV) that comes in the form of a nasal spray and is claimed very affective against the common flu.

The Health Department at RCC is distributing its own useful supply of remedies to help students avoid or handle the flu. They provide a small paper sack called the “Flu Care Kit,” containing two aspirin, a cough drop, pain relievers, a tea bag and chicken broth mix.

The health office also has an instructional guide on “How to treat your cold and flu symptoms.” This guide gives helpful tips on what medications to take according to your symptoms, and what methods will help to keep you from catching the flu in the first place.

Patti Smith, the director of RCC’s Health Services, encouraged students to avoid getting stressed out or “run-down” this flu season. She said that as people mingle throughout campus it is easier to catch the flu, so she recommends that students wash their hands frequently to keep germs from spreading.

Every year around 300 flu vaccine shots are supplied to the RCC health office, but only a small percentage of those are actually used on the students. This is because most students are simply unaware of its availability on campus and do not face a serious threat of catching the flu.

Yet with this increased awareness of the flu vaccine shortage, many healthy people are worried about getting their supply of the vaccine before it is too late. However, health officials are telling people not to become distraught.

The truth is, America is facing a major shortage, but it’s not as dramatic as it may seem.

The Center for Disease Control is already reporting that by late November we will have access to enough vaccine supplies to keep us safe for the rest of this flu season.

For any information on where to receive a flu shot, how to treat flu symptoms, or where to purchase alternative flu medications, visit the on campus health office located below the bookstore, or contact your local physician or health provider.

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