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Health Services out of flu vaccine

Published: Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Updated: Wednesday, January 16, 2013 03:01


After administering the flu vaccine to over 40 percent of full-time Tufts students and employees on the Medford/Somerville campus last fall, Tufts Health Service announced that it ran out of the vaccination and will not be receiving any more this school year.

According to Senior Director of Health and Wellness Services Michelle Bowdler, 3,000 Tufts community members received the vaccination at Health Service last semester.

The vaccination is generally 60 to 85 percent effective against preventing the flu, Bowdler said. All of the students who were diagnosed with the flu while at Tufts last semester had not been vaccinated before falling ill, she explained.

Although this year’s flu outbreak came earlier and with greater intensity than usual, it is no more threatening than it had been in past years, Medical Director of Tufts Health Service Margaret Higham said.

“It’s not any different from the flu we’ve been seeing in the past couple of years,” she said. “It’s not the [Influenza A] H1N1 [virus], not some new strain.”

The Boston Globe reported in a Jan. 11 article that over 750 cases have been found within the city so far this season, a number significantly higher than the 70 that had been confirmed at this time last year.

However, Boston Mayor Thomas Menino’s declaration of a flu emergency in the city of Boston was mostly an attempt to mobilize efforts to acquire more vaccinations and make citizens aware of preventative measures, Higham said.

According to a Jan. 10 blog post by Higham on the Tufts Emergency Preparedness website that was linked to in an email to the Tufts community, preventative measures include proper hand washing, getting enough sleep and staying home when one experiences a fever or flu-like symptoms. The most common symptoms include fever, body ache, headache and severe cough. 

The flu can be particularly dangerous for those suffering from chronic medical problems such as bad asthma and those taking immune-suppressing medication, Higham said.

Bowdler said that the outbreak should not cause excessive anxiety because so much of the Tufts community has received the vaccination.

“If you have a small community and a huge percentage of the community is protected, it seems likely that not only will this be helpful to those who are vaccinated, but also to those who have not been vaccinated,” she said. “We can hope that less will spread to them.”

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