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Fact or Fiction? A Flu FAQ

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Sure, the daytime temperatures still hint at summer, but daylight saving time has dimmed the lights. We, in California, call this fall. It’s also known as flu season.

You might have been able to scare off the common cold last month. But if you think you can outrun the flu, think again, and get the shot. The gamble just to dodge the needle isn’t worth the risk, says Richard Boucher, interim director and chief staff physician of Cal State Fullerton’s student wellness and health services.

The seasonal flu virus alters a bit each year, making its mutation a bit of a mystery before the vaccine is created. So, you can’t rely on your native immunity alone for protection against the flu, he explains.

“The No. 1 way to prevent the flu is by vaccination,” Boucher says. “The virus can hit all ages. So, if most people are vaccinated, the number of cases could be reduced.”

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, this year’s vaccine was updated from last year, and it’s a cell-grown vaccine. Only injectable flu shots are recommended this year, because of concerns about the nasal spray vaccine’s effectiveness. Vaccinations should continue throughout the flu season, even into January and later, the CDC says.

Boucher answered a few questions to put the flu in perspective.

When is flu season?

It begins in October and hits its peak in January and February. The flu season starts to taper off around March and April, but this is very dependent on outbreaks that occur. Here, at the health center, we monitor Influenza-like illness, ILI, and report our results monthly to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

What’s new about this year’s flu and flu shots?

Flu shots can vary from year to year depending on the prediction of which virus(es) might cause the flu. This is observed in the Southern Hemisphere and then the vaccine is manufactured here. We use the quadrivalent vaccine.

Can the flu shot give some people flu-like symptoms in a matter of hours?

For those 18 years and older the more common adverse symptoms are myalgia, headache and malaise. These symptoms can mimic flu symptoms, but the vaccine does not cause the flu.

How does the flu spread?

In a large population, in close quarters such as classrooms, the virus can spread quickly. Coughing and sneezing spread the virus, and the statistics show that infections are spread 80 percent of the time by hands. So, wash your hands.

Can repeated bouts of the flu weaken our immune system?

Repeated episodes of the flu do not weaken our immune systems. Depending on one’s age there usually isn’t bodily damage. However, cases of severe pneumonia might. And, there are deaths reported from the flu.

Where can students get free flu vaccinations on campus?

Students can schedule an appointment for a free flu vaccination at the health center by calling 657-278-2815.