You can't escape it. You can't hide from it. You can catch it from breathing in after someone with it has coughed or sneezed. It is the flu. Nobody is immune, unless they have gotten a flu shot, protecting them against certain strains every year. With students returning to close-quarter dorms and large classes, concern exists about the potential for spreading the flu virus.
\We certainly have concerns that people are going to bring influenza back with them, said Kathleen Poi, Director of University Health Services, 1552 University Ave.
UHS offers free flu shots to students on a walk-in basis. According to Poi, a steady stream of students have taken advantage of the service. However, a delay in vaccine production the past two years has affected availability, leading to UHS beginning immunizations later than usual.
Two groups of students are at higher risk than the general student population for contracting influenza or developing influenza-related complications. According to Poi, students living in residence halls and those who have ongoing chronic illnesses such as asthma, diabetes or are immunosuppressed are the groups specifically targeted by UHS to receive the vaccine.
""One of the groups we target are younger students who are living in residence halls who also often tend to be students in the largest classes,"" Poi said. ""The major risk factor is being in places where there are large congregations of people.""
Poi said receiving the vaccine does not provide immediate immunity.
""If you get the shot today, you won't be protected tomorrow, but you will have some protection next week and better protection the week after that,"" she said.
According to Dr. Jeff Davis, Chief Medical Officer and State Epidemiologist for Communicable Diseases with the Wisconsin Division of Public Health, so far the flu season has been mild in the state. Also according to Davis and Thomas Haupt, Influenza Surveillance Coordinator for the state, all of the flu strains detected so far are included in this year's vaccine.
""Everything that we have seen is what has been anticipated and it all is covered by the vaccine,"" Haupt said.
Although so far the season has been mild, it is not over, Davis said.
""Usually it is about seven or eight weeks from the time of initial detection to the time that we get to a peak,"" Davis said. ""It is quite possible that there will be a surge in cases coming down the road soon.\