As a student, you have enough to worry about without having to think about getting influenza (also called “the flu”). Catching the flu can sideline you for days or weeks, and in some cases, it can even develop into something more serious.
Most people can avoid the flu altogether in one easy, preventative step—simply by getting vaccinated. However, thousands of students right here on campus do not get vaccinated.
In November and December 2015, the South End asked Wayne State students whether they would get the flu shot: 50% of the students polled said they would NOT be getting their flu shot, 7% said they might get it, and the remaining 43% said they would or already did. According to this poll, half of our WSU population is not interested in getting vaccinated and likely more than half won’t get vaccinated for one reason or another.
While on campus this flu season, we have encountered many students who have misconceptions about the flu shot. These misconceptions may contribute to such a high percentage of students not wanting to get vaccinated. It is our goal to help keep all students informed about the flu vaccine so they can make an educated decision regarding their health.
1. Myth: You can get the flu from the flu shot.
The flu shot is made from inactivated virus; this means that the shot does not contain live virus. Therefore, it cannot cause you to catch the flu. While the vaccine delivered by nasal spray does contain live viruses, it has been weakened so much that this won’t give you the flu either. You cannot get the flu from the flu vaccine in either form.
You can, however, experience some symptoms unrelated to the flu virus, such as tenderness or redness in the area where you received the shot, achiness, a mild fever, or a runny nose. This may last for a day or two, but this is NOT the flu!
Some people may still believe they came down with the flu after getting vaccinated, but we can assure you that those people were most likely already ill or had already been exposed to the flu virus. It takes about two weeks for the vaccine to start preventing the flu.
2. Myth: Young, healthy people can’t get the flu.
The flu doesn’t distinguish between healthy people and those with compromised immune systems. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that everyone six months and older get vaccinated for the flu.
Influenza is a contagious disease and can lead to serious illness, including pneumonia, as well as missed school, hospitalization for otherwise healthy people, or even death.
And it’s not just about you. You may be healthy enough not to get sick from the flu, but you can still be a carrier of the flu virus. If you are a carrier, you risk spreading the virus to high-risk populations, including young children, older people, pregnant women, and those with weakened immune systems.
3. Myth: I got the flu even though I had my flu shot, so the vaccine must not work.
The flu can be a tricky virus. Many people believe they have the flu, but they don’t. They in fact are suffering from a different respiratory virus, but some of the symptoms are the same, which causes the confusion.
It is also possible that you caught the flu before the vaccine kicked in. There are many different strains of influenza, so it’s possible that you caught a strain that was not included in that year’s flu shot.
The good thing is that if you are vaccinated and somehow still contract the flu, you will normally experience milder symptoms than those who skip the shot altogether.
4. Myth: I got the flu vaccine last year, so I don’t need it again this year.
To protect yourself and others from the flu, you must get the vaccine every year. Unlike some other immunizations, the flu vaccine becomes less effective over time. And the flu shot’s formulation changes each year to protect against specific viruses that are expected to be prominent that year. So you want to get the flu shot each and every year. Flu vaccines are usually available starting in September and can be given through late spring or early summer.
5. Myth: I have a good diet and I exercise several times a week, which helps prevent the flu.
The flu can affect you just as easily as it can affect someone who does not eat well or exercise regularly. Diet and exercise will help keep you healthy and strong, this is absolutely true, but that is not going to prevent you from getting sick if you are exposed to the flu virus. The only thing that will prevent you from contracting the flu is getting the flu vaccine.
So, to sum it up: Get your flu shot! Protect yourself, and help protect others.
The Campus Health Center offers flu shots for no out-of-pocket cost to all WSU students. You can make an appointment Monday to Friday from 9am to 5pm by calling 313-577-5041.