Campus health center still providing flu vaccinations

Pablo, GVSU student, takes it easy during an illness

Nathan Mehmed

Pablo, GVSU student, takes it easy during an illness

Molly Waite

Whether sitting on the bus, taking notes in a near-silent classroom or studying in the library, the constant symphony of coughing, sneezing and throat clearing can only mean one thing: Grand Valley State University is deep in cold and flu season.
“Flu seasons are unpredictable and vary by timing, severity and length,” said Dr. Claudia Leiras-Laubach, assistant professor in the GVSU Kirkhof College of Nursing. “In the United States, we most commonly see peaks in the flu in January or February and can last as late as April or May.”

Influenza, better known as the flu, and the common cold are both respiratory illnesses, Leiras-Laubach said. Both can cause mild to severe illness, and everyone is at risk for them.

“Because these two types of illnesses have similar flu-like symptoms, it can be difficult to tell the difference between them based on symptoms alone,” Leiras-Laubach said. “In general, the flu is worse than the common cold.

Symptoms such as fever, body aches, extreme tiredness and dry cough are more common and intense for the flu as opposed to the common cold. People with colds are more likely to have a runny or stuffy nose.”

The Campus Health Center at GVSU prepares for the cold and flu season by ordering large quantities of the flu vaccine and stocking up on other supplies, said Stacey Kammer, manager of the health center.

“Because of how significant the swine flu was last year, we anticipated that a lot of students would choose to get the flu vaccine,” Kammer said. “We actually ordered a couple extra hundred doses this year to be prepared for that influx of vaccinations.”

The Campus Health Center also hosts vaccine clinics, usually in October and November, to encourage students, faculty and staff to get vaccinated and to provide information about illnesses common during the winter months.

“We just like to educate students to make sure that they’re knowledgeable of what they should be doing as far as prevention measures,” Kammer said.

Staying healthy during the cold and flu season involves following basic preventive steps.

“Everyday preventive steps are to wash your hands frequently, stay away from individuals who are sick and, if you are sick with the flu, stay home from work or school to prevent spreading the flu to others,” Leiras-Laubach said.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends a yearly flu vaccine for everyone to help protect against illness.

According to the CDC website, the effectiveness of the flu can vary and depends in part on the match between viruses in the vaccine and flu viruses circulating in the community. The better the vaccine matches the flu viruses, the higher the vaccine effectiveness. During well-matched years, clinical trials have shown vaccine effectiveness between 70 and 90 percent in healthy adults.

“Getting the flu vaccine every year is the most important thing you can do to protect yourself and your family from the flu,” Leiras-Laubach said. “The vaccine protects against the three viruses that research suggests will be the most common in the upcoming flu season.”

And it is not too late to get the flu vaccine, Kammer said.

“We still actually have quite a bit of the flu vaccines at the health center that we can distribute,” Kammer said. “That is really helpful because, even though we’re in the midst of flu season, students can still turn up with positive results for the flu in February and March. Some flu strains can hit in early January and February, but others can go March through June.”

For questions or more information about the flu vaccine and health issues, visit the Campus Health Center or call (616) 252-6030. The health center is located at 10383 42nd Ave. on the Allendale Campus and is open 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday.

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