Swine Flu Vaccines Here: Mason Health Services Distributes H1N1 Nasal Spray for Free

by   Posted on November 5th, 2009 in Uncategorized

Lauren Jost, Connect2Mason Reporter

Student Health Services will be distributing H1N1 Live Attenuated Influenza Vaccine nasal spray for free with a Mason ID on Tuesday, Nov. 3, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. in Dewberry Hall.

Seasonal flu vaccines are no longer available at SHS. The last 45 doses of the vaccine were administered on Thursday, much to the chagrin of students and faculty.

Originally scheduled until November, seasonal flu vaccines clinics – $15 for a shot – have been cancelled until further notice due to a shortage of the vaccine. Additional seasonal flu vaccines have been ordered and SHS are awaiting the delivery.

Thursday’s seasonal flu vaccine clinic, along with all previously scheduled clinic dates, were slated to take place in Student Union Building I between 1 and 4 p.m. However, students queued up in the SUB I lobby as early as 12:30 p.m. leaving those unable to show up early without a chance to take advantage of the vaccine.

“I didn’t get the flu shot here,” said senior, English major Jessica Tibbs. “I live in Fredericksburg so it was easier to get it at Walgreens, even though it was $25.”

In light of having no more vaccines, SHS has prepared by informing students and faculty about seasonal flu vaccine clinics offered at off-campus locations, though for a higher price.

A nearby seasonal flu vaccine clinic at Safeway Pharmacy on Willard Way offers the vaccine for $30 although the price may vary depending on insurance plans. A complete list of off-campus flu clinics can be found on the SHS website.

On a weekly basis, SHS is averaging about 15 students that are seeking treatment for flu-like symptoms — more students than at the same time in previous years.

Administrative Assistant of Student Health Services Rachel Benner says that H1N1 testing is available if patients are exhibiting flu-like symptoms, but isn’t going to make much of a difference for students, unless they suffer from chronic illnesses.

Benner explained that during this Fall 2009 flu season SHS is dealing with two different strains of the flu, which are essentially the same. Because symptoms for H1NI virus are virtually the same as seasonal flu symptoms, it is almost impossible to distinguish between the two – unless a test is taken.

“H1N1 testing is available now, however, the test is about $200 and takes about four days to get the result,” said Benner. “The quick influenza test is not sensitive enough to confirm or rule out the diagnosis of H1N1.”

H1N1 testing has been available for the past few weeks, and the lofty fee applies to everyone – no student discount is available.

Benner also stressed a recommendation from the Center for Disease Control’s pamphlet, which accompanied paperwork for the seasonal flu vaccine, that unless a patient suffers from a weakened immune system, muscle or nerve disorders, chronic illness, has long term aspirin treatment, lung complications, or is pregnant, H1N1 will likely affect the body the same as a seasonal flu virus.

“According to the CDC, symptoms of H1N1 are similar to the symptoms of seasonal flu and may include some combination of fever higher than 100° F, sore throat, stuffy nose, cough, headache, body aches and/or fatigue,” said Benner.

The same pamphlet states that mild problems and side effects from the seasonal flu vaccine are symptoms such as hoarseness, fever, aches, and a cough. While these are flu-like symptoms, it does not mean you have the flu but that your body is getting used to the vaccine. Also, because the flu vaccine is grown in eggs, people with severe egg allergies should not obtain the vaccine.

Students and faculty exhibiting flu-like symptoms are strongly encouraged to stay home and rest. Residential students, however, have a bit different guidelines.

“Residential students who live close to George Mason University should return home to their permanent residence for the duration of their illness,” explained Benner. “[In order] to limit the spread of flu in university residence halls.”

Mason is accommodating students with flu-like symptoms by providing “meals to go” available for $10.99 at Southside between 7 a.m., and 11 p.m. daily. Meals contain a combination of soup broths, ginger ale, gelatin, saltine crackers, fruit juices and assorted sandwiches.

A sick student can call 703-424-6421 to request meals, but must wear a mask if planning to pick-up a meal in person.

For more information regarding the H1N1 nasal spray vaccine visit the Student Health Services website at shs.gmu.edu.

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