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Thursday, Apr 24, 2014

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Get a flu shot!

It's not too late to protect yourself against influenza


In addition to new gloves and scarves, students and employees returning to campus may bring another sign of winter: the flu virus.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that this year’s influenza season started earlier and is hitting harder than in previous years. According to the Ohio Department of Health, Ohio has seen a 20-fold increase in flu-related hospitalizations over last year’s season.

Influenza is a respiratory virus that causes fever, cough, sore throat, a runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headache, chills and fatigue. It can be especially dangerous for the very young and the elderly, pregnant women, and people with certain medical conditions, such as asthma, heart disease, lung disease, metabolic disorders, or weakened immune systems from HIV infection or cancer treatment.

If you are at high risk for flu complications and begin to show signs of the flu, see a doctor right away to receive antiviral drugs that can lessen the severity and duration of illness. Anyone with the flu should stay at home until at least 24 hours after fever (100 degrees F or 37.8 degree C) subsides.

To reduce the likelihood and severity of a campus outbreak, University Human Resources encourages all students and employees to receive the influenza vaccine. Flu season can last until May, so it’s not too late to get protected. It takes about two weeks for the vaccine to provide full protection, though, so sooner is better than later.

Although the flu shot has an average overall effectiveness of about 63%, the CDC notes that it is most effective in young, healthy adults—such as college students. Even if it doesn’t prevent infection, the vaccine can make the disease less severe than it would be otherwise.

Where to get flu shots

  • Local pharmacies. Human Resources has partnered with Anthem/Express Scripts to offer a convenient flu shot program. All employees and their family members age 14 and up can get flu shots at participating pharmacies at their convenience. Participating pharmacies in the Athens area include CVS, Fruth, Kroger and the Drugstore at O’Bleness. Call ahead to verify that the pharmacy is participating and has vaccine on hand, and have your Express Scripts ID card when you arrive.
  • A doctor’s office or clinic. Anthem will pay 100% of the allowed amount for flu shots provided by in-network physicians and health clinics. This does not include the $20 office visit copay or any other additional fees. Shots administered by non-network physicians or clinics will not be reimbursed in full. To access a list of network providers, visit www.ohio.edu/hr/benefits/healthcare/providers.cfm.
  • The health department. The Athens City-County Health Department offers free flu shots with or without insurance by appointment 8–11 a.m. and 1–3 p.m. weekdays. Call (740) 592-4331 to make an appointment. Take your health insurance card with you.