Updated flu vaccines help prepare individuals for flu season

University Park, Pa. -- Although the World Health Organization discontinued the pandemic alert on Aug. 10, 2010, the H1N1 virus isn’t history yet. Based in part on last year’s H1N1 pandemic, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has revised flu vaccine recommendations this year to include everyone over the age of 6 months, not just those at high risk for complications. Those at high risk for serious complications from the flu include pregnant women, individuals with a chronic medical condition (such as asthma, diabetes, cystic fibrosis, or heart disease), or individuals who are immune-compromised.

This year’s flu vaccine will include the 2009 H1N1 strain as part of the vaccine. The vaccine will be manufactured in the same manner as previous years and the same high level of effectiveness is expected. “Vaccination is the smartest thing you can do to prevent the spread of flu,” states Shelley Haffner, infection control nurse manager for University Health Services (UHS).

For those who do get sick, knowing the difference between the flu and the common cold can help patients properly treat their symptoms. Flu develops much more suddenly and symptoms are more severe. In general the flu is more likely to have fever, muscle aches, headache, fatigue and less likely to have symptoms predominant with a cold, like sneezing and nasal congestion. Online self care guides are available for both colds and flu on the UHS website at http://studentaffairs.psu.edu/health/healthTopics/pdf/SelfCareCommonColdUHS.pdf and http://studentaffairs.psu.edu/health/healthTopics/pdf/self_care_flu.pdf online.

Penn State faculty and staff can register for their seasonal flu vaccine through Health Matters at http://www.ohr.psu.edu/healthmatters/flu online. Vaccination is free for employees regardless of health plan enrollment. Spouses and partners enrolled in the employee's Penn State PPOBlue Health plan can also receive the flu vaccine free of charge. The cost for spouses and partners not enrolled in the employee's Penn State health plan is $26. Children and retirees are not able to receive the vaccine through Health Matters.

UHS will hold a flu vaccination clinic for University Park students on Monday, Oct. 11. Penn State student health insurance plans will cover the cost of the vaccine ($20) if received at UHS. Students are strongly encouraged to schedule appointments ahead of time and may schedule flu vaccine appointments at http://studentaffairs.psu.edu/health/myUHS online starting Oct. 4. A second flu vaccine clinic will be offered at a later date.

Last Updated September 21, 2010