flu shot

In their clinicals, GU nursing students perform health screenings and administer flu vaccinations for patients.

 

When Zags line up to get their flu shots this fall, Gonzaga University's very own nursing students will be behind the poke. 

GU’s nursing majors in their clinicals are helping distribute the vaccines by performing health screenings for patients, as well as administering the injections.

"We had to learn how to give the shots in lab for a couple of weeks," said junior nursing major Aly Apeles. "We had just taken our test the week before that verifies we could do them safely. During our shift, we took blood pressures, checked vitals and then we moved upstairs and gave vaccinations."

Influenza, more commonly known as the flu, is a contagious illness that is caused by influenza viruses which infect the throat, nose and lungs, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Symptoms include fever, cough, other cold-like symptoms, headaches, body aches, fatigue and even vomiting. 

The flu can cause mild to severe illness, and in some cases can lead to death. Older and younger people as well as those with certain health conditions are at a greater risk of suffering complications from the flu.

Flu viruses are mainly spread through droplets that are emitted when people with the flu sneeze, cough or talk, which then land on nearby people’s noses or mouths. Someone can also get the flu by touching an object or surface with the flu virus on it, and then touching their face, although this is less common.

Therefore, in a place with a dense population, such as a college campus, the flu can spread easily. This is why Health and Counseling Services (HCS) offers flu shots through the fall and winter of each year.

HCS has designated days for flu shot clinics at their office. During these clinics, students can simply walk in and get their flu shot. The last clinic at HCS will be Thursday, Nov. 11 from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. 

Students can also call HCS at 509-313-4052 to schedule an appointment to receive the flu vaccine. Flu shots cost $15, which can be paid with cash, card, bulldog bucks or charged to a student’s account. 

Getting a flu shot sooner rather than later is a great idea since it can offer protection not only for yourself, but to others when travel becomes popular during the fast approaching holidays, said Kristiana Holmes, director of HCS.

It’s best to get the vaccine in September or October before the flu starts to spread, but students can still get the flu shot through fall and winter and be protected since flu season tends to peak in February, but can even last until May, Holmes said.

As with many other vaccines, there are several myths surrounding the flu shot. One of the most common myths is that you can get the flu from the flu shot. Holmes said this is false, and that the vaccine contains a flu virus that has been attenuated or inactivated and therefore cannot cause illness. 

Some people might also question if they need to get a flu shot every year. According to the CDC, it is necessary to get the vaccine annually. This is because an individual's immune protection decreases over time, so receiving the vaccine each year is the best protection.

Flu viruses are continuously mutating, so flu vaccines are reviewed and updated based on which flu viruses are infecting people and making them sick at the time. 

“For healthy college-age students, the risks [of serious complications] tend to be less likely,” Holmes said via email. “However, being sick with the flu can affect students greatly. Symptoms can cause absence from class for an extended period of time, which may have an impact on academics. And the flu is not fun. If students receive a flu shot but still become ill with the flu, symptoms are typically much less severe.”   

Holmes said that during the pandemic, getting vaccinated against the flu continues to be imperative, as symptoms may be similar to COVID-19. If students experience symptoms, they should get tested at HCS to determine if COVID-19, the flu or other illnesses are responsible.

“It's part of our civic responsibility to get the flu shot, so we can prevent transmission as much as possible,” Apeles said. “It's hard to completely prevent it, but it's just one little thing that's pretty easy to do. And it can be a little uncomfortable, but the payoff is worth it.”

Marissa Conter is a staff writer. Follow her on Twitter: @marissamconter. 

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