Preventative medicine


Megan Crane came down with a fever on Friday, Feb. 11, 2005. For her, the rest of that weekend was full of chills, aches and hot flashes.

“I would be shivering cold one second and put the blankets on,” she said. “Fifteen minutes later, I’d be sweating; I’d throw all the blankets off, at which point I’d get chills again.”

Officials at Lafene Health Center told her she was showing classic flu symptoms, and they prescribed medication for her. Crane said she felt better within 24 hours of taking it.

The next flu season, Crane did not take any chances. She got vaccinated, and she plans to do it again this year.

“Given my experience with the flu, I would highly recommend that anyone who has access to a flu vaccine get one,” said Crane, junior in English and international studies.

Influenza symptoms are typically much like pneumonia, said Erin Lord, senior administrative assistant at Lafene Health Promotions office. “The body usually feels a lot of achiness all over, high fevers and cold sweats,” she said.

Additional symptoms include headache, tiredness, a cough, sore throat, and runny or stuffy nose, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

Stephen K. Chapes, professor of immunology, said he has received the vaccine regularly for the past 8-10 years.

“With flu vaccines, you get very good immunity,” Chapes said. “The problem is the virus mutates annually, or different strains show up annually.”

Since the virus changes annually, last year’s vaccine might not be as effective this year, Chapes said.

In general, college students share risk factors that raise their susceptibility to contracting the flu beyond that of the population at large.

“For those who live in the dorms, living in close proximity to so many people increases the likelihood of contracting influenza,” Crane said.

In addition to being around people, the changes in local temperature and weather wear down students’ immune systems, Lord said.

The months of September and October – right before the weather changes drastically – are the best months to get vaccinated, Lord said. This also depends on the local supply of the vaccine.

Shortages have occurred every year for the last few years, said Susanne Kufahl, assistant administrator at Riley County Health Department.

“Suppliers, practitioners and health departments don’t necessarily get the entire winter’s stock of vaccines right away,” she said.

If shortages occur, they generally take place early in the flu season. Suppliers usually restock quickly after that, and people can return to their providers within a few weeks if the vaccine was not available right away, Kufahl said.

Kufahl said the health department does not expect shortages this year.

The influenza vaccine is available at Lafene Health Center’s flu clinic every Thursday until Nov. 15, Lord said. Shots cost $14 for K-State students and $19 for faculty and staff.

“You don’t have to have an appointment,” Lord said. “You can just walk on in.”

The vaccine is also available as a nasal mist, which costs $23 for students and $28 for faculty.

Chapes said using the nasal mist may generate a more natural “host response” than having the which costs $23 for students and $28 for faculty.

Chapes said using the nasal mist might generate a more natural “host response” than having the vaccine injected.

He explained that the body’s immune response to a pathogen depends on how it was exposed to that pathogen. For example, if a patient gets infected through a wound on their skin, the pathogen would circulate through their bloodstream and reach their lymph nodes. Those lymph nodes would produce antibodies to resist the germ, according to Chapes.

“With the flu, the respiratory tract is the natural route of infection,” he said.

If a person inhales flu germs, tissues surrounding the lungs create antibodies that affect pathogens in the lungs, he said.

“The route of exposure makes a big difference in the level of protection,” he said. “The host response is very important, and how you respond is very important.”

Lord said a flu clinic representative will be in the lobby to receive guests and notify the doctors. When a doctor is ready, patients walk back to the allergy and immunization room and receive their shot.

To monitor patients for side effects, doctors recommend a 20-minute waiting period right after being vaccinated.

“They want to make sure you’re OK and not stumbling off somewhere,” Lord said, adding that vaccine side effects are very rare and usually minor.

Health officials from Lafene also will administer flu shots during an annual health fair in the K-State Student Union Oct. 24, Lord said.