With flu season set to begin in November, GW Student Health Services is offering vaccination clinics for students until next week.
More than 400 students and faculty members received flu shots for $15 on Wednesday in the Marvin Center. Another clinic will be held Wednesday in the Mount Vernon Pub from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.
Director of SHS, Isabel Goldenberg said the injection, which is more than 90 percent effective, is essential for college students because the flu spreads through inhalation.
“Students live in crowded spaces, in close contact with youngsters from many universities,” she said. “If there’s an outbreak (in the dorms), it will be very difficult to control in a population that’s not already vaccinated.”
Flu symptoms include a high temperature, scratchy throat, dry cough, body aches and headaches that vary in intensity, Goldenberg said.
“The only real protection against the flu is the vaccine,” she said.
Each year, 500 to 700 students, staff and faculty receive the flu shot from SHS. While SHS has not ruled out the possibility of offering more clinics this year, students can receive the vaccine at SHS by appointment at any time.
“The flu vaccine is a great opportunity for the University to take the most effective preventative measure to keep people well throughout the year,” Ruth Katz, dean of the School of Public Health and Health Services, said while receiving the shot. “I applaud the University for making this effort.”
Sophomore Greyson Geer said he is planning to get a flu shot at Wednesday’s clinic. He said he did not get vaccinated last year and got the flu near final exams.
“(People) usually stay up late and are not eating right (near finals),” he said. “The chance of getting the flu then is more likely. Plus, it’s flu season.”
Goldenberg said anyone with flu-like symptoms should come to SHS for a diagnosis and either antibiotic or symptom-specific treatment. SHS can also alert the GW community to take extra precautions in the event of an outbreak.
Students are at higher risk for the flu if they have any kind of chronic diseases such as asthma, pulmonary disease or congenital heart disease. Smokers also have a much higher risk of contracting influenza.
There are no side-effects to the flu vaccine for most people, said Gerald Stokes, associate professor of microbiology and immunology. He said people allergic to eggs should not get the vaccine because it is grown in an egg product.
Stokes said the vaccine cannot make a person sick because it is made from inactivated, or “killed,” virus. While the shot decreases a person’s chances of contracting the flu, it is not perfect.
The drawback of the flu vaccine is that it is only effective against the three strains of the virus used to make it, Stokes said. Influenza mutates rapidly, so there are new strains emerging every year.
Although getting the vaccine is encouraged, several students said they opted not to get the flu shot.
“I’m getting over-vaccinated,” freshman Grace Bathon said. “I just don’t think you have to prevent every sickness. The flu isn’t deadly.”
“I don’t see the flu shot as something necessary,” senior Ari Michelson said. “The flu only lasts two weeks.”
In addition to the vaccine, Goldenberg said she recommends the “common sense approach” to preventing the flu, including washing hands frequently, eating regular and nutritious meals, avoiding crowded spaces and refraining from smoking. She also said lowering stress helps, but “between papers, projects and midterms, students really cannot decrease their stress.”
A new method of vaccination called “Flu Mist” is currently in the testing stages. This new method would be inhaled rather than injected, making it easier and more convenient to administer.
–Julie Gordon and Adam Levine contributed to this report.