On Jan. 11, the H2N3 influenza strain reached epidemic status, with most Florida counties reporting mild or moderate flu activity.
In contrast to the more severe H1N1 flu outbreak of 2009, which lasted for months, this recent health scare has already peaked, according to federal disease control officials. Many states have been experiencing vaccine shortages, due to high demand, but Florida has not been among those highly affected states.
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention recommends receiving annual flu shots, and NSU’s Sanford L. Ziff Health Care Center, located less than one mile from main campus, is providing free flu shots to all NSU employees. Students with NSU Student Health Insurance can also receive the vaccine, although there is a co-pay fee.
Freshman chemistry major Rani Khetarpal said, “I got the flu vaccine at Walgreens on the 17th, because my mom wanted me to. It was painful, my arm was killing me the day after.”
According to clinical pharmacist Aisy Aleu, the Sanford L. Ziff Center has seen a dramatic increase in the number of both vaccines given and the number of afflicted patients over the past two weeks.
“Mostly as precautionary measures, people have been coming in to get the flu shot. But we also have people coming in who have the flu and need medications,” said Aleu.
The increase in need for the flu vaccine has also led to an increase in awareness about other vaccinations. When patients go in and request the flu shot, several other vaccines such as pneumococcal for pneumonia and zoster for shingles, are recommended to them. Recently, the clinic has seen an increase in willingness to receive multiple shots.
“Many patients, especially those over the age of 65, have been eager to receive additional vaccines when they come in just for the flu shot,” said Aleu. “The sudden increased interest in health is all because of the flu.”
According to The New York Times, 90 percent of all flu-related deaths occur among individuals over 65. So far this year, the CDC’s increasing pediatric flu death count is at 29, which includes premature infants and youths up to age 17.
Many people, like freshman biology major Katrina Fins,do not consider vaccinations until a health threat is clear.
“I haven’t gotten the flu shot yet, but I’m seriously considering it now, even though the outbreak doesn’t scare me. There are always sicknesses, and it’s more important to be aware of precautions we can take against getting sick.” said Fins.
Students are advised to continue to be cautious in regard to cleanliness. Frequent hand-washing and use of sanitizers is recommended, while sharing of drinks and clothing is discouraged until the flu threat has diminished.
The Sanford L. Ziff center is open 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. on weekdays and 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturdays, and can be reached at 954-262-4550. Free health screenings are provided to NSU students, employees and the public on the third Tuesday of each month.