Celebrate National Influenza Vaccination Week By Getting Your Flu Shot

Connie K. Ho for redOrbit.com — Your Universe Online

Your nose feels stuffy. You feel fatigued and tired, barely able to keep your eyes open. To make matters worse, your throat feels dry and, every so often, you make a cackling cough. These are just a few of the symptoms of the onset of influenza, otherwise known as the flu. From December 2 to December 8, National Influenza Vaccination Week (NIVW) will be held. The awareness event was created to focus on the importance of the influenza vaccination, during holiday season and year round.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), millions of people suffer from coughs, fevers, sore throats, runny or stuffy noses, muscle aches, and sick days at home due to the flu. The flu can affect everyone, from young to old. As such, the CDC recommends that people six months and older obtain an annual flu vaccine.

“Flu season typically peaks in February and can last as late as May,” Dr. Anne Schuchat, Assistant Surgeon General of the U.S. Public Health Service and Director of CDC´s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, said in a prepared statement. “We are encouraging people who have not yet been vaccinated to get vaccinated now.”

The flu vaccine is available as a shot and as a nasal spray. “Getting the flu vaccine is simple, and it´s the most important thing you can do to protect yourself and your family from the flu,” continued Schuchat in the statement.

It takes approximately two weeks for the flu vaccine to develop complete defensive immunity for the body. In February, flu activity usually peaks and can continue to May. Flu vaccines are offered in a number of locations, like clinics, the doctor´s office, health departments, pharmacies, retail stores, schools and health centers.

“This is at least a month earlier than we would generally see the beginning of the uptick in cases,” Thomas Frieden, the CDC Director, told USA Today. “So we’re particularly encouraging people who haven’t been vaccinated to do it.”

The CDC has a number of opportunities for individuals to get involved in the event. On Wednesday, Dec. 5, the organization will host a live chat with influenza expert Dr. Mike Jhung on Twitter; the Twitter handle is @CDCFlu and the topic is at #NIVW2012. Held from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m. Eastern Standard Time, the talk will focus on the benefits of the vaccine and address questions individuals may have on the flu or the flu vaccine.

NIVW comes at an interesting time, as a recent study from Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center found that college students have a low rate of getting a flu shot. The research proposed that colleges and universities should produce novel or improved strategies to encourage students to get the influenza vaccine. They recommended giving flu shots at campus-wide events as day-long campaigns, as well as utilizing creative communication efforts to reach out to students who live on and off campus.

“Influenza virus is contagious and is known to circulate through college campuses, enhanced by close living quarters, typical social activities and low vaccine coverage,” explained the study’s lead author Dr. Kathy Poehling, an associate professor pediatrics at Wake Forest Baptist, in a prepared statement. “With influenza virus already being detected this November, it is likely to increase in the next one to three months and may overlap with exam periods. Although it is hard to predict the severity of the coming flu season, we usually have more influenza activity after a mild season like last year’s.”

The findings of the study were recently included in the Journal of American College Health. The paper reported that only one in five college students at the eight North Carolina universities who participated in the study were obtaining flu shots. A total of 4,090 students participated in the confidential, web-based survey in 2009.

The study, considered the first multi-university study focused on flu vaccine coverage, found that 30 percent of the students had been vaccinated during that year.

During the seasonal vaccine period, coverage ranged from 14 percent to 30 percent, which is less than half of the goal of 80 percent coverage of individuals ages 16 to 84 put out by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services´ 2020 Health People mission. To find out more about NIVW, visit the CDC website and find out about planned activities at the national, regional, state and territorial level.