12/22/2014

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Whitman Co. public health director recommends students get the flu shot

PULLMAN,, WA - College students on the Palouse are back from winter break, and with the start of the new semester came the start of the flu season.

Palouse Reporter Rachel Dubrovin explains how the flu is impacting Whitman County and why it's not too late to get vaccinated.

The flu hit Whitman County early this year.

"So we know it's here," said Whitman County Public Health Director Fran Martin. "We don't expect it here so soon, it doesn't usually come here till March. And so, are we going to get another big hit in March? We don't know."

And the nationwide trends tell us that it could get a lot worse.

"How hard it is impacting certain communities is definitely a concern," said WSU Health and Wellness Services Assistant Medical Director Dennis Garcia.

Health officials say that young children, the elderly, and people who haven't been vaccinated are at the highest risk of catching the flu.

"Coughing, sneezing, achy joints, feeling like they've been hit by a truck," said Martin.

Washington State University has seen twelve cases since the beginning of the semester.

"So far all of the students we have seen have not been vaccinated," said Garcia. "So hopefully there's a word to the wise out there that you should get your flu vaccination."

Garcia said that generally, college students neglect to get a flu shot because they don't believe they're at risk.

"The compliance in this population is pretty low because they think they're invincible," said Garcia.

But he said that fearlessness seems to be fading.

"We have administered more vaccine this year than we ever have in the past," said Garcia. "So I do think students in general are beginning to become more aware."

Outside of WSU, Whitman County can't collect hard numbers on the flu because it's not a reportable condition. However, the health department is encouraging people to get the flu shot.

"Really, there's not a reason not to get them because you can get it from your medical provider, you can get it at Walmart, you can get it at Rite Aid," said Martin.

Whitman County Public Health Director Fran Martin said the ideal time to get vaccinated was back in October because the vaccine can take up to three weeks to kick in. But if you haven't done so yet, it's still not too late.

"We live in a world of free-floating viruses everyday," said Martin.

The flu shot is approximately 60 to 70% effective, and people who get vaccinated can still get the flu, but it’s generally a less severe case of it.
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