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University provides flu vaccines

Becky Hogan | Tuesday, October 7, 2008

The flu season is just around the corner, bringing with it inevitable coughs, sore throats, fevers and other respiratory afflictions – but University Health Services is providing free influenza vaccines to help members of the campus community avoid contagious influenza viruses.

Assistant Director of University Health Services Pat Brubaker said that Health Services purchased 5,200 vaccines this year – about 200 more than they provided last year.

“The number of vaccines administered goes up a little each year depending on the usage from the following year,” Brubaker said.

Students, staff and faculty can receive free flu shots today, Wednesday and Thursday in the Joyce Center at gates 1 and 2 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on a first come, first served basis.

According to Brubaker, this year’s vaccine prevents three different strains of the influenza virus – all of which are new strains this flu season.

While the influenza vaccine remains effective for about six months depending on an individual’s immune system, Brubaker said Health Services strategically plans to administer the free flu shots about 10 days before students leave campus for fall break to allow students to develop immunity.

“[Students] come back from fall break with a lot of illnesses, and we try to prevent this as much as we can by offering the vaccine before fall break,” Brubaker said.

Brubaker also said that Health Services offers the influenza vaccine earlier than other health care centers in the community, and that anyone who wishes to receive the vaccine should do so before December for the vaccine to be effective.

According to Brubaker, the flu season comes in two waves, usually in December and March.

Brubaker said “high-risk” individuals should seriously consider receiving the vaccine, including anyone with asthma, chronic diseases, people taking medication and people with respiratory problems.

“[The vaccine] also helps prevent students from missing two weeks of school or from being miserable for two weeks,” she said.

Sophomore Rachel Koch said she plans to take advantage of the free flu shots this week since the vaccines are conveniently offered on campus.

“It seems like it’s something that is easy to do, and will prevent me from getting sick,” Koch said.

Brubaker also explained it is much easier to prevent flu viruses than it is to recover from them.

“There is no cure for influenza, so it’s better to prevent it than to try to cure it. There are some anti-viral medications, but it’s up for debate about how good they are,” Brubaker said.

According to Brubaker, University Health Services purchases the vaccines out of their budget in conjunction with money from Human Resources to provide the campus with free vaccines.

“We feel it’s an investment to keep people well, and that preventing illness is as important as caring for sick students,” she said.

Brubaker said University Health Services has been a “sentinel site” for about the past 10 years, providing the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) with data about how influenza affects the campus community each year.

“Notre Dame is part of a national watchdog group for viruses,” she said. “We collect data to help plan for which flu strains the vaccine will be made in the coming year.”

Brubaker said all who wish to receive a flu shot from Health Services this week should bring their Notre Dame I.D. card, wear short sleeves and be prepared to sign a consent form before receiving a vaccination.