Thursday, December 12

Ashe, students prepare for flu season


As it has for each flu season during the past seven years, the
UCLA Ashe Student Health Center is offering free flu shots at
events around campus.

Tuesday’s flu fair, the last of a series of four, was held
in Westwood Plaza, next to the Bruin Bear.

Organizers expected to vaccinate around 300 students, and at one
point, the line for flu shots stretched down Bruin Walk, past the
end of the J.D. Morgan Center toward the dorms.

Flu season, which runs from October to February, is the time
when people are most likely to contract the influenza virus.

The purpose of the flu shot is to prevent contraction of
influenza, a viral infection affecting the respiratory tract. While
the immune system normally becomes immune after an initial
infection, influenza viruses mutate rapidly, making them
unrecognizable to the immune system.

For this reason it is recommended that people get a shot each
year to protect them from the latest strains.

Evi Desser, a nurse practitioner for the UCLA Ashe Center said
that about 3,000 students are vaccinated each flu season. She also
objected to the common myth that flu vaccine causes colds.

“They have nothing to do with each other,” she
said.

Augustine Lopez, a second-year economics student, said, “I
live in the dorms with five suite mates. If one of them gets sick,
we all will.”

Lopez also got a flu shot last year, but never had before.

“I don’t want to get sick during finals,”
Lopez said.

According to Desser, academics are a major concern for students
seeking the flu shot.

“People who have had the flu affect (their) academics are
more likely to get a shot later on,” she said. “Some
people can lose (as much as) two weeks (from their
studies).”

Another student, an undeclared first-year, said she has only
been healthy a few weeks this quarter, and that she’s getting
the shot because she gets “sick a lot.”

She added that many of her friends in the dorms have already
received the vaccine.

While anyone could contract influenza, it is especially
recommended that specific demographics get vaccinated.

People who have weakened immune systems are particularly
susceptible, and are urged to get the shot each flu season to
protect themselves. This includes the very young and very old or
those with immune disorders or other illnesses.

Since influenza is a communicable disease, people whose lives
put them in contact with susceptible people or a large number of
people are urged to get the shot to prevent the spread of the
virus.

People in this group include health care workers, childcare
workers, and people living in high density housing, such as
residence halls.

Getting vaccinated is performing a public service by helping to
stem the spread of the flu, according to Desser.

The Ashe flu shots are paid for by student fees and are free to
UCLA students with an appointment, while supplies last.

Other local pharmacies offer the shot as well; Ralph’s
pharmacy charges $17 and also requires an appointment

To combat influenza each season, scientists consult
epidemiological and statistical forecasting models and put together
a vaccine battery of the viral strains that are expected to be most
common.

As with all vaccines, the idea is to give the immune system a
taste of the disease-causing organism (or pathogen) so the immune
system can rapidly detect and degrade it.

The vaccines are typically filled with dead pathogen
(heat-killed bacteria or deactivated virus) so that they do not
infect, but still interact with the part of the memory component of
the immune system.

This can cause some complication, such as mild fever and
possible allergic reaction.

There are three major types of influenza (and many subtypes) and
most newly discovered strains are similar enough to existing
strains so that new vaccines are not necessary.

Influenza is responsible for some of the worst world-wide
epidemics in human history, including 20 million deaths in
1918-1919, which is more than the number of casualties during World
War I.

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