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Seasonal Flu and Other Immunizations

Importance of vaccines

Vaccines are one of the best ways to prevent certain infectious diseases. In the past 10 years recommendations for vaccinations for adolescents have expanded, which can help this generation lead healthier lives. Because these recommendations are so new, many people have not yet been fully vaccinated. Check your records or come by the Wellness Center and we can see if you are fully protected.

Preventing the flu

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that anyone over the age of six months be vaccinated yearly against the flu. Influenza can cause a fairly mild illness for some and it can be deadly for others. In the past, serious pandemics have killed thousands of people. A young and healthy college student is not likely to experience serious complications from the flu, but the very young, elderly and those fighting chronic disease are at a high risk for complications and death. Getting yourself vaccinated will help prevent you from getting sick and missing class or work. It will also prevent transmission of the virus to those at high risk. The flu vaccine saves lives.

Common reasons that people do not get a flu vaccine:

  • “I’m healthy. I don’t get the flu.”
    • Just because you haven’t had the flu in the past does not mean that you won’t get it this year. Getting the vaccine decreases your chances of getting sick, but more important, it decreases the chances that someone who is not as healthy as you will get sick.
  • “The flu shot gives you the flu.”
    • The virus used in a flu shot is dead and inactivated. It cannot give you the flu. Sometimes people get sick with other viruses around the same time that they received the flu shot and blame it on the vaccine. The vaccine causes your body to build an immune response which may cause very mild “flu-like” symptoms such as low-grade fever and body aches for a day or two. 
  • “The flu shot doesn't work.”
    • According to the CDC, the influenza vaccination reduces the risk of flu illness by 50-60 percent. Every year the vaccine is created to prevent the strains that are predicted to be the most prevalent. This is also a reason you need to receive the vaccine yearly.
  • “I’m allergic to eggs.”
    • In the past an egg allergy was a reason not to get vaccinated. However, most versions of the flu vaccine are safe for people with an egg allergy.

Tdap (tetanus, diphtheria, pertussis)

Pertussis is a very contagious bacterial infection. It causes a severe cough and is very uncomfortable for teens and adults, but when infants and small children are infected it can be deadly. The introduction of pediatric vaccination against pertussis has caused these rates to drop dramatically, but the disease is still prevalent because the immunity provided by the childhood dose is not lifelong. A booster is recommended for teenagers and then every 10 years for adults. It is also strongly recommended for all pregnant women in their third trimester of pregnancy. Protect yourself and others by making sure you are up to date.

Tetanus is an acute and sometimes fatal disease. It is caused by a toxin produced by the bacterium Clostridium tetani that can be acquired through wounds such as burns, deep punctures, animal bites and more. It can be transmitted in a seemingly small wound, so it is important to always be protected.

Diphtheria is caused by a bacterium that is spread through coughing and sneezing. It causes serious harm to the respiratory system and in the early 1920s was the cause of 15,000 deaths annually. Rates have dropped because of widespread vaccination, but the disease still affects over 7,000 people in the world each year. Continuing to vaccinate is the key to preventing this terrible disease from returning.

MCV4 (quadrivalent conjugate meningococcal vaccine)

Meningitis caused by Neisseria meningitides causes life-threatening illness that is most common in infants and teenagers. College students living in dormitories are at an increased risk. This disease is not common, but it is devastating. Bacterial meningitis can present almost like a cold with fever, headache, nausea and vomiting. Signs that are extra concerning for meningitis include stiff neck and vision changes. If these symptoms occur seek medical attention immediately. Help protect yourself and other students by making sure you are vaccinated. It is recommended that teenagers receive a dose at ages 11-12 and a booster between ages 16-18.

MenB – New vaccines have been developed to cover an additional strain of Neisseria meningitides not currently covered in the standard vaccine. The vaccines are FDA approved, and are now included in the CDC’s recommendations for adolescents. Ask your health care provider or come by the Wellness Center to find out more.

HPV (Cerarix)

Every year about 14,000 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer. The vast majority of these cancers are caused by the very common human papillomavirus (HPV). HPV has also been linked to other genitourinary cancers in men and women. Vaccines are now available to protect against the strains of the virus with the highest cancer risk. The vaccine should be given to young men and women between the ages of 11 and 26.

Hepatitis B

The Hepatitis B virus (HBV) causes an infection in the liver and can lead to lifelong infections with serious complications, including liver failure, liver cancer and death. The American Committee on Immunization Practices first recommended HBV vaccine for all infants in 1991 and most people born in the U.S. after that time have been vaccinated against HBV. Those born before 1991 in the U.S. or in a country that does not routinely vaccinate against HBV may be at risk for infection. The CDC recommends that people at high risk for infection be vaccinated as adults. These risks include working at a job that involves contact with human blood, having diabetes, traveling to a country where HBV is common, chronic liver and kidney disease, and more. Talk to your healthcare provider about your possible risks.

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