Flu information session held at UTPA
Posted: 10/27/2004
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With the start of the influenza (flu) season almost here, the Student Health Services department at The University of Texas-Pan American hosted an information session Thursday, Oct. 21 at the Student Union to notify students about flu and illness prevention.

Last year the UTPA Student Health Services Center gave 400 doses of flu vaccine to students, staff and faculty. Due to a recent national flu vaccine shortage, the University did not receive any of the 600 flu injections and nasal spray vaccinations ordered this year.

Student Health Services handed out flu prevention fliers to students at the Student Union Thursday, Oct. 21. Rick Gray, director of UTPA's Student Health Services and Disability Services, pictured second from right, explained illness prevention tips to students (from left to right) Julio Carranza and Alan Boyzo, both freshmen majoring in criminal justice; Robert Martinez, a freshman majoring in education; and Adam Manzano, a sophomore majoring in electrical engineering.
This news comes on heels of the announcement by Chiron Corp. that it will not be delivering any of the 46-48 million doses, approximately half of the total supply of vaccines for the United States, for the 2004-05 flu season. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Federal Drug Administration redirected all shipments to other populations, as most students, faculty and staff at UT Pan American are not in the "high-risk" groups who need flu shots.

Rick Gray, director of UTPA's Student Health Services and Disability Services said, "The CDC recommends, if people are healthy and over age two and under 64, they should just do without the vaccine. People can use other techniques to take care of themselves and remain healthy."

The Student Health Services department handed out brochures which explained vaccination is not the only way to help prevent the flu. A few key tips to remember are to: avoid close contact with people who are ill, stay home when you are sick to protect others from getting your illness, cover your mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing, wash your hands often and avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.

Groups that should receive flu vaccinations, according to the CDC include:

• People who are 65 years or older;

• Children six to 23 months old;

• Adults and children with a chronic health condition;

• Women who will be pregnant during flu season;

• Residents of nursing homes and long-term care facilities;

• Children ages six months to 18 years on chronic aspirin therapy;

• Health care workers involved in direct patient care; or

• Out-of-home caregivers and household contacts of children younger than six months.

If a person belongs to one of the above-mentioned groups they should seek the vaccine from their primary care physicians, Gray said.

"We're trying to get the word out that even though there is a flu vaccine shortage, there are other things we can do instead of depending on the flu shot," Gray said.

He also suggests getting plenty of sleep, engaging in physical activity, managing stress, drinking water and eating nutritious food will help you stay healthy during flu season, which is typically November through March.

"We want to inform students, faculty and staff about some basic rules which work for colds, flu and everything else in general," Gray said. "We're following the national guidelines, so people aren't getting a lot of different messages."

Some common symptoms of the flu include fever, headache, extreme tiredness, cough, sore throat, a runny or stuffy nose, muscle aches, and nausea, vomiting or diarrhea, according to the CDC. The UTPA Health Services Center is available to treat students if they should become ill.

According to a 2004 American College Health Association National College Health Assessment study, 26 percent of the 47,202 students surveyed nationally said "cold/flu/sore throat" interfered with their academic performance.

The Health Services Center recently added a new position - Health Education Coordinator III - to assist the department in promoting health and wellness initiatives among students and to ensure they are well and able to attend class.

"We've been working on this position for a long time," Gray said. "The health educator's first assignments will be to inform students about health issues such as the flu and promote wellness activities."

The new health coordinator will also work to develop and implement a college health assessment study for UTPA that specifically reflects the health of this specific population.

Located on the first floor of the Emilia Schunior Ramirez Hall, the out-patient clinic is open from 8 a.m.-5 p.m., Monday through Friday, with extended hours until 7 p.m. on Monday, Wednesday and Thursday. For more information about Student Health Services, call 956/381-2511.