Officials Say Prevention Best Flu Defense

January 23, 2013
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JOPLIN, MO (SNS) – Missouri Southern State University students have returned to campus at the same time the influenza virus season is underway.  MSSU officials say they are working to help students avoid the flu bug
Last semester, MSSU's Willcoxon Health Center offered four flu vaccination sessions. Over 450 students, employees and others were vaccinated. 
Julie Stamps, FNP, and Director of the Willcoxon Health Center, says the best idea is to start early.
"We always recommend early vaccination," she states. "We held four clinics in September and October of last year. Other ways to help would be good hand washing techniques, avoiding contact with people when they are ill, taking care of yourself with good rest and eating habits, avoiding crowded places.  Above all, if you are sick with fever and symptoms, stay home."

Stamps says the Willcoxon Health Center is out of flu vaccine.  The City of Joplin Health Department also is no longer offering adult vaccinations.  However, she says some primary care providers and large pharmacies still have the shots available.
At this point, an outbreak of influenza has not become a reality at MSSU.
"In prior years, we have experienced a few students with flu symptoms and positive flu testing," Stamps says.  "So far there has not been a widespread outbreak."
According to Dr. Jennifer Dennis, head of the Biology and Environmental Health Department at Missouri Southern, university campuses are potential breeding grounds for influenza.

"Colleges and universities are at a higher risk due to the large number of people in a relatively confined space," she states. "Additionally, you have people interacting in contained environments, such as dorms, the gym and cafeteria.  These are high traffic areas and if the flu is passed onto a surface due to contact, runny nose, or cough, it will remain for others to contract the virus. "
Dennis says even in an era of vaccines and modern modes of treatment, influenza remains a major concern.
"The flu continues to be problems because it's a pretty tricky virus – different regions can have different types of flu each year, we may have influenza B one year and influenza A the next," she states.  "Over time, the flu virus can change, so we need to be re-immunized each year to ensure we are developing our own defenses - known as antibodies- to prevent us from getting sick.  Our bodies aren't perfect either, and our antibodies that fight off the flu wear out over time.  Getting vaccinated each year is your best bet."
The Centers for Disease Control says flu vaccines are remarkably safe. It takes up to 2 weeks for protection to develop after the shot.  Protection lasts about a year.  Some mild problems associated with the vaccine can include soreness, redness, or swelling at the injection site, hoarseness, sore throat, red or itchy eyes, cough, fever and body or headaches. If these problems occur, they usually begin soon after the shot and last 1-2 days.
Josh Doak, Director of Residence Life at MSSU, says hand sanitizer dispensers are available in three primary residence halls and in the entry to the Mayes Dining Hall at the University. He says if illness takes place, it is handled according to a specific protocol.
"If a student is feeling ill, we direct them to the University nurse to evaluate symptoms and get any medications needed.  If a student is feeling too ill to leave his or her room, we work with food service to provide meals to deliver to their room to keep them isolated.  How we handle living accommodations depends on what style of housing they live in, and severity of illness. "