Flu risk minimal for healthy, young adults

Lyndall Ellingson, professor of health and community services, said that while getting a flu shot is a good precaution, the risk among young, healthy college students is minimal. Photo courtesy of Chico State.

February is the heart of flu season, but Chico State students tend not to place much emphasis on getting the annual shot promoted by health care agencies and providers.

Although getting the shot is an important precaution, and the vaccination can lower chances of contracting influenza, the risk is very low for healthy young adults, said Lyndall Ellingson, professor of health and community services.

“College students are at their peak biological period,” she said. “College-age people are not gonna die of the flu.”

The flu is notoriously unpredictable so guessing the correct strain each year is tough. More than 2,000 flu shots were given last semester through campus clinics, but this season’s shot is said to not be as effective as previous years.

“It will still help prevent serious complications, including death, in people who have the vaccine and still contract influenza,” said Jill Cannaday, nursing supervisor at the Student Health Center.

The goal of any vaccine is to immunize 85 percent of people, thus protecting the rest of the population. However, the flu is much more difficult to control than other illnesses.

“Influenza vaccines are difficult to produce at a high level of efficacy,” Ellingson said. “There are many strains and those strains can shift. One of the reasons it’s difficult to control influenza is because there is low perceived risk among healthy individuals.”

Jake Tubbs, a mechanical engineering major, thinks young people don’t need to need to worry about the flu, he said.

“I don’t really take extra precautions,” Tubbs said. “Just the same ones I always do, like washing my hands regularly and trying to avoid contact with sick people. I don’t think the majority of students are overly concerned about it.”

Health care professionals still have a long way to go to making the flu vaccine more effective.

“The CDC reported that the 2014-2015 vaccine has low effectiveness,” Ellingson said. “In fact, I got the vaccine, and I got influenza.”

Michael McClurg can be reached at [email protected] or @michaelmcclurg on Twitter.