Flu shots urged as influenza on rise

Stephen Hwang, a student in kinesiology, gets a flu shot

Stephen Hwang, a student in kinesiology, gets a flu shot at a College of Pharmacy-sponsored event at the Student Recreation Facility in 2011.
Photo: Roberta Dupuis-Devlin/UIC Photo Services

As more cases of influenza are reported across the country, it’s a good time to get a flu shot, says UIC epidemiologist Mark Dworkin.

“The bottom line is that the current vaccine does overlap with the majority of what is circulating presently, so it’s a good match,” said Dworkin, professor of epidemiology.

Thirty-eight states — including Illinois — are reporting moderate or high levels of influenza-like illness, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“Compared to the last few years, this is earlier for us to observe the widespread activity that’s being reported,” Dworkin said.

Under the Affordable Care Act, insurance providers are required to provide free flu shots every year. Students who have insurance through the CampusCare plan can receive free flu shots at the Family Medicine Center.

Still, getting a yearly flu shot won’t guarantee complete protection from the influenza virus, Dworkin said.

“It doesn’t mean that people who have been vaccinated can’t get the flu — it means if they get the flu, they’re more likely to have a minor illness or avoid hospitalization,” Dworkin said.

Although reported cases of hospitalizations from the virus are increasing, the strain doesn’t appear to be a pandemic, said David Marder, director of the University Health Service.

“It’s more the usual flu outbreak right now and it’s not acting like a potential pandemic, which was the concern with H1N1 a few years ago,” he said.

Students and employees should do their best to keep the virus from spreading, Marder said.

“It’s always better to get the flu shot than not to get it,” he said. “If you end up getting sick, the flu shot will cover the strains of influenza that are known to cause the biggest complications.

“And if you’re sick, don’t come to campus.”

Those who get sick should also practice preventative hygiene, such as covering their coughs and washing their hands regularly, Dworkin said.

For more information, call the Family Medicine Center at 312-996-2901.

christyb@uic.edu

 

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