Students expecting flu shots this year will be disappointed when they try to get one. A supply shortage this flu season means only those who fall into high risk categories will be vaccinated.
Student Health Services had planned a vaccination clinic for Oct. 27, but it has already been canceled.
"We were hoping until just recently that we would still be able to hold the clinic," Jim Boyle, Student Health Services administrator, said. "Even if we were now to receive the vaccine, CDC guidelines would require us to provide the vaccine to the community in order to provide protection to those in the most acute need categories."
Unfortunately, many UT students are not included in the high priority groups. The Knox County Health Department, or KCHD, currently has no flu vaccines, but a limited supply is expected to arrive from the Tennessee Department of Heath. Only high risk individuals will receive the vaccinations.
The Knoxville Academy of Physicians canceled its annual vaccination clinic.
"Out of almost 20,000 shots ordered, we have zero," Sonnie Bridgford, chief executive officer of the Knoxville Academy of Physicians, said.
Knox County Health Department facilities will be strictly following the CDC's guidelines for administering the shots, a recent KCHD press release said. Shots will be made available to children 6-23 months, adults 65 and older, women who are pregnant during the flu season, and people aged 2-64 who experience underlying chronic medical conditions.
"Not many people our age are in great need of the flu shot. Although it's no fun being sick, there are the elderly and people with life-threatening diseases that need it more," John Nelson, freshman in marketing, said.
KCHD recommends that at-risk individuals seek shots from their primary care providers or pharmacies when they are ready.
For students who do not qualify for the vaccinations, the KCHC recommends following stringent flu etiquette. Students should wash their hands frequently and for 15-20 seconds each time. Since most college classrooms put sick and healthy students in close quarters, students should be diligent in covering their mouths when they cough or sneeze. A healthy diet of fruits, vegetables and plenty of water is also suggested by the KCHD.
The flu is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses. Severe cases can result in death. It is spread person to person through respiratory droplets expelled when a person coughs or sneezes. Warning signs include fever, tiredness, sore throat, muscle aches and dehydration.
If students observe flu etiquette, the KCHD said they will greatly reduce their risk of contracting the virus. But for those who wish to be more aggressive in sickness prevention, alternatives to the shot are available.
"The only thing we can do is to promote good hygiene and educate the people, make them aware of what do to prevent the flu," Bridgford said.
FluMist, an intranasal spray, is available to healthy people between the ages of 5 to 49 and antiviral medications can be given if you are unfortunate enough to contract the flu. Antiviral medications can decrease the length and severity of flu symptoms but must be started within 48 hours of symptom onset to be effective.
Visit the Student Health Services Web site at http://web.utk.edu/~shs for more flu prevention techniques.