In response to high demand for flu shots this season and a fully booked scheduled at the Vaden Immunization Clinic, Vaden Health Center has planned three emergency drop-in clinics for students, faculty and staff.
Vaden held two emergency clinics on Wednesday, in cooperation with Flu Crew and the Occupational Health Center, at the Vaden Health Center and Arrillaga Family Dining Commons; the third will be held this Friday, again at Arrillaga dining.
“We’re concerned about a possible significant increase in flu cases on campus,” said Vaden Clinic manager Nancy Masunaga in an emailed statement to The Daily. “Influenza is a contagious disease that can lead to serious complications.”
Masunaga attributes national coverage of the influenza A (H3N2) epidemic to the increased demand for flu shots, which has resulted in Immunization Clinic appointments being fully booked until at least next Wednesday.
“Anytime there is news in the media about an increase in flu activity the demand for flu shots increases,” Masunaga wrote.
The H3N2 influenza strain has already hit 47 states and is moving westwards towards California. Still, the state’s influenza activity remains local, rather than widespread, according to the Center for Disease Control (CDC). Additionally, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Surveillance Region 9, which includes California, is the only U.S. region currently experience normal, rather than elevated, numbers of outpatients treated for influenza-like illness.
According to the CDC, this year’s predominant influenza A (H3N2) strain may have led to increased severity.
“Typically ‘H3N2 seasons’ have been more severe, with higher numbers of hospitalizations and deaths,” said Joe Bresee, CDC Influenza Division Chief of Prevention.
Lauren Pischel, first year student at the Stanford medical school and member of the Flu Crew Steering Committee said that the Flu Crew – an organization run primarily by Stanford medical students and undergraduates that works with Vaden to provide vaccinations on campus — has vaccinated well over 4,500 people on campus since September. This number rose from 2,217 people vaccinated on campus in 2011’s flu season and 1,821 people vaccinated in 2010.
Pischel also points to the H3N2 strain for the growing need for more vaccinations.
“The H3N2 strain has not been the primary influenza strain in circulation for a couple of years now, which is one of the reasons why … people are getting sick,” Pischel said.
Although the vaccine does not guarantee avoiding flu infection, it can prevent severe symptoms and help prevent the spread of infection from a healthy person to those who are immuno-compromised.
After Friday’s emergency drop-in clinic, Vaden will continue to administer the vaccine in its Immunization and Travel clinics until the end of June.