Push for flu shots

Rhiannon Branch/The News

Story by Sabra Jackson, Staff writer 

Flu season is around the corner, and Murray State Health Services and Calloway County Health Department are encouraging the community to get their flu shots.

The peak of flu season begins late October and runs through February, with some cases occurring as late as March.

Kim Paschall, director of health services, said protection starts by getting the vaccine.

“Getting vaccinated is the first step in being proactive,” Paschall said. “Good handwashing and making sure you cover your cough when you’re sick are also important.”

Paschall said college students are more at risk for the flu because their immune systems are weaker from not getting enough sleep, living in close quarters, social activities and poor diets.

“The flu impacts campus because it spreads rapidly, and a person is often contagious before they realize they have the flu,” Paschall said. “Spreading quickly and causing severe respiratory symptoms, the flu can cause absences in the classroom and in the workplace.”

Paschall listed a few things college students can do to protect themselves from getting the virus. Along with getting the flu shot, she said students should get seven to eight hours of sleep each night, make healthy food choices and drink plenty of water to boost their immune system.

Paschall said college students are not as likely to get the vaccine for a number of reasons.

“In the past, we have held free flu vaccine clinics on campus and always have a significant amount left unused,” Paschall said.

Paschall said the State Department for Public Health will start monitoring lab-confirmed flu cases starting in October to see how many people the flu affects.

Amy Ferguson, public health director at the Calloway County Health Department, said the department highly suggests getting the flu shot because the flu spreads quickly throughout the community.

Since the immune system is more susceptible to the flu when it is weak, Ferguson said she recommends staying at home if an individual does not feel well during the peak of the flu season.

“Sometimes it can be very life threatening for certain people—people who are older or people who have chronic conditions that would weaken their immune system,” Ferguson said.

Ferguson said she recommends getting the flu shot even if students already have the flu because it will make the case milder, and it can help take less of a toll on your body.

Ferguson estimates that roughly half of the community gets the flu each year.

“There’s plenty of flu vaccines around the community this year,” Ferguson said. “I encourage all of the students to get that flu shot. It takes just a second to get vaccinated, and it can prevent some serious illness in the long term.”

Flu vaccines are offered in many places including CVS, Walgreens, Rite Aid and physician’s offices, and many insurance companies offer full coverage for the shot.