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Mills offers vaccinations against the upcoming flu season

As the flu season approaches, Mills College’s new on-campus health center is concerned with getting people vaccinated against the flu.

The Kaiser-run Student Health Center began providing flu vaccinations at the start of the semester, and so far has administered about 300 doses.

Vaccinations were provided at the Heath Fair, along with many other health education resources, on Oct. 14.

“From Mills’ standpoint, the purpose of the Health Fair was to provide community educational resources for students. From Kaiser’s standpoint, the purpose was to provide health education, information about the student health plan, and flu shots/mists,” said Kay Alway, manager and R.N. for the Student Health Center.

Flu shots or flu mists cost 20 dollars for the Mills community and those with the Kaiser plan get the vaccine for free.

Alway said flu season usually takes place from January through March. Vaccinations are given now through the end of February.

The H1N1 (also known as Swine Flu) vaccine should be available in the Student Health Center by the end of October.

Some students at Mills are getting the flu shot in order to maintain their health throughout the semester.

“I got the flu shot because I do not want to get sick,” said Katie Mitchell, a first year student.

Others students are less worried.

“I am not getting a flu shot because I do not get sick often. Even if I do, I do not think it would be that bad,” said first year student Amina Dzano.

The two main types of flu vaccines are the flu shot and the flu mist, and the health center administers both. Among the flu shots, there are seven different varieties, and of these, the health center provides three.

Flu shots are .5 milliliters of inactivated, dead influenza virus administered into the deltoid muscle. The flu mist is 1 milliliter of live, inactivated virus administered into each nostril. The flu mist is cultivated in eggs.

“The flu mist is more effective because it is a live, inactivated virus. Your body will amount a stronger immune response and you can also activate other people’s immune systems by getting the mist,” said Miriam Dunham, a physician at the Student Health Center.

People ages two to 49 can get the flu mist, and must not be pregnant or nursing, care for or visit someone with a weakened immune system, or have a chronic condition.

“Because the body is working hard to produce antibodies, you may feel more fatigue after,” said Dunham.

Dunham said she recommends that everyone get the flu and H1N1 vaccine to both protect themselves and others. Those vaccinated cannot transmit the virus, though they may still get it. She cited a study of children aged 15 months to seven years that found the standard nasal flu spray reduces the chance of getting influenza by 92 percent.

In order to create the flu vaccine, researchers look back on previous years’ statistics to predict which strains have the possibility to run rampant. This is the material they use to create the vaccine.

“They cannot predict everything but the vaccine protects against the most common,” said Dr. Dunham.

To create the H1N1 shot/mist, researchers look at cases of both the harmless strain and deadly strain of the disease and developed a vaccine to protect against the disease.

Some of those at Mills who do not want the flu vaccine say the it either makes them sick, does not work, they do not get sick anyway, or they have gotten vaccinated before and still got sick, according to Dunham.

Currently, Public Safety is very concerned about the spread of the H1N1 virus at Mills.

“We want to keep reminding everyone on how to protect themselves. We have no way of knowing [how many people have already had it because] all student health issues are confidential. I can only think that since other colleges are suffering small outbreaks, that we will also,” said Michael Lopez, director of Public Safety. He sent a notice to the College community Oct. 19, in in which he stated “the swine flu is upon us” and attached an informational poster.

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) recommends the flu shot and the H1N1 shot for pregnant women. Researchers believe, based on case studies, that in other pandemic cases pregnant women got a quick onset of the disease and more severe symptoms.

For students who wish not to get a flu vaccine, herbal techniques can be used to stay healthy along with adequate sleep and nourishment.

“For preventative uses, herbs like Jade screen, an herbal formula of which Astragalus is one main component, will boost the immune defenses,” said Jeffrey Szilagyi, an acupuncturist for Acupuncuture of Marin located in San Anselmo, California.

“Medicinal mushrooms also have an immune enhancing property,” said Szilagyi.

Some helpful tips that Szilagyi recommends include not eating sweets when one experiences a sore throat because it can weaken function of the body’s immune responses. Also, Szilagyi says it is very important to get herbs from a reliable source. He recommends companies like Health Concerns or Evergreen Herbs. There are also local health stores near Lakeshore, Grand, and Rockridge.