Sherry Bell

Photo Credit: Ellyn Snider | Daily Texan Staff

With flu season underway, University Health Services will be offering flu shots for the last time this year Thursday.

UHS has administered the vaccine at locations such as the McCombs School of Business, Gregory Gym and the Facilities Services Building. According to Sherry Bell, UHS senior program coordinator, the clinic at McCombs vaccinated 976 people within one four-hour period. She said the clinics have vaccinated almost 10,000 people on campus this year.

“I can say that when we have these clinics, we take a large group of people to make sure the process is efficient,” Bell said. “We’ve done everything to reduce the barriers to get the flu shot,” Bell said.

If the University accepts their insurance, students can receive the vaccine for free. Without insurance, the vaccine costs $10. According to Bell, if students are walking on campus without the cash in pocket, the cost can be added to their “What I Owe” page.

“I feel like [the vaccine] is still a virus that they inject into you,” accounting junior Danlei Xiong said. “I did have side effects with the last shot I had, and, with the Ebola virus getting serious, I’m just really fearful of having another virus in my body.”

Xiong said even though she knows Ebola is not an airborne virus, she still feels hesitant going to highly populated areas. She said she feels that the purpose of the vaccine is to initially weaken the immune system and later strengthen it, but, knowing that, she does not want to take a chance.

Communications senior Alex Powell said he believes there should be wider promotion in support of the flu vaccination.

“It’s better to be safe then sorry,” Powell said. “It’s unfortunate. Some who are new parents and are against the flu shot choose not to give their kids the flu shot either. They’re missing out on the protection they can be giving them.”

According to Bell, the flu vaccine is a dead virus and will not cause illness.

“The flu shot should not restrict anybody from doing anything that they want to do,” Bell said. “The best thing to avoid the flu is to get the flu shot.”

From 12-4 p.m. Thursday, UHS will be at the Student Services Building administering the flu vaccine.

October marks the beginning of flu season, accompanied annually by a flurry of sniffy noses and 100-degree fevers.

Starting Monday, University Health Services will offer flu shots to UT students, faculty and staff on select dates through Oct. 17.

The flu shot service is free for students who have insurance — except Health Maintenance Organization plans, plans with insurance companies based outside the U.S. and governmental plans — and faculty and staff who have UT Select insurance. Other students, faculty and staff can be vaccinated for $10.

Last year, UHS vaccinated a total of 5,400 students and 3,400 faculty and staff, according to Sherry Bell, UHS senior program coordinator, who is leading the flu shot campaign. 

Theresa Spalding, medical director at UHS, said she sees the most students come in after Thanksgiving and winter break, peaking in February. Spalding said the department’s strategy is to vaccinate as many students as possible to avoid the spread of the flu.

“If by chance, someone [is] exposed to the virus [after vaccination], they won’t get it and they won’t spread it,” Spalding said.

Rachel York, a youth and community studies junior, received a flu vaccine last year. York said she plans to get vaccinated again this fall.

“I used to always get the flu when I didn’t get the flu shot, and ever since I got the shot, I don’t get the flu so I make sure to get it,” York said. 

Business freshman Fariha Hossain said she gets vaccinated approximately every other year and plans to visit UHS sometime this week to get the flu vaccine.

“I have a really weak immune system,” Hossain said. “I get sick when the weather changes rapidly.”

Some students don’t believe the flu shot helps them avoid the flu.

“I only get it if I’m required to,” biology freshman Marcia Rondonuwu said. “In high school, I was in a premed program. Because I volunteered at a hospital, I was required to get a flu shot.”

Despite some students’ claims regarding the flu vaccine’s inefficiency, UHS said it offers the vaccines in the best interest of the students. 

“We’re here to keep students healthy so they can perform well academically and in their personal lives,” Bell said. “Getting a flu shot is the best way to prevent the flu.”

A full schedule of vaccination dates, information about the flu and flu symptoms can be found at healthyhorns.utexas.edu.

Along with the cold weeks of January comes the annual, unwelcome cedar pollen, which triggers allergies and cedar fever.

Cedar is a common allergen in Central Texas that contributes to Austin’s ranking in the top five worst cities for seasonal respiratory allergies, according to the website for University Health Services. UHS medical director Dr. Theresa Spalding said while seasonal allergies are not 100 percent preventable there are ways to lessen the body’s response to them. 

“Once you know it is the specific time of year you suffer from allergies, take allergy pills which will help ease your symptoms,” Spalding said.

The Forty Acres Pharmacy in the Student Services Building offers over-the-counter medicines as well as filled prescriptions to help cedar fever. For those who react to allergies more severely than the average person, Spalding said a sensitization shot allows for the body to be much less responsive to the cedar and other pollens. Spalding said, however, these treatments are no use without regular showers because the showers wash pollen off the body.

“While it is hard to predict exactly who will be affected, by taking the necessary precautions you are less likely to suffer and will fight off reactions to cedar pollen,” Spalding said.

There are a number of services on campus available to students who may be troubled by cedar fever, said Sherry Bell, senior program coordinator for the UHS. Bell said students should visit healthyhorns.utexas.edu to find out more about how to prevent seasonal allergies like cedar fever.

“Students can always call the UHS 24 hour advice line if they’re suffering from allergy symptoms and need self care advice or help determining if they need to see a health care provider,” Bell said. 

Because many are unfamiliar with cedar, often times UT students react quite severely to it, Bell said. 

“I find myself having to blow my nose every five minutes,” psychology sophomore Chris Gonzales said. “And it’s even worse in class when there is very little you can do to stop your nose from running or sneezing uncontrollably.” 

University Health Services extends flu shot campaign, offers final opportunity on Wednesday

University Health Services decided to extend its annual flu shot campaign with a final clinic scheduled for Wednesday Oct. 24 from noon until 4 p.m.

Sherry Bell, consumer education and outreach coordinator for UHS, said by the end of today’s clinic, around 8,200 vaccines, leaving some vaccines from the original 10,000 ordered unadministered.

“This year’s campaign has been somewhat slower than last year’s campaign,” Bell said. “This could be due to the mild flu season last year, the fact that the vaccine is available earlier than in the past and people might not think ‘flu’ while it is still warm or other factors.”

Bell said that despite this year’s slower campaign, UHS still considers its work successful.

“A flu shot campaign is always successful when you can immunize over 8,000 people on campus against the flu,” Bell said. “That’s 8,000 fewer folks who could miss class or work because of the illness.”

U.S. Centers for Disease Control encourages individuals to get flu shots as early as September, and predicts that flu season can begin as early as October in Texas. UHS, however, has not had any reported cases of the flu in the general medicine wing.

Once the campaign ends, UHS will only offer flu shots to patients with existing appointments or those seen in Urgent Care. Appointments for the vaccine only will not be made.

With flu season approaching, UT and the Austin area are combatting the virus by providing flu shots to as many residents as possible.

University Health Services held its first day of flu shot clinics Tuesday at the Student Services Building to provide the UT community with low-cost influenza vaccinations. Shots are $10 without insurance, and the clinics are based on walk-ins only. Tuesday’s clinic was the first in a series that will end Oct. 18.

Sherry Bell, senior program coordinator for UHS, said the center has provided flu shot clinics for more than 20 years. Fall 2011, however, was the first time UHS accepted insurance at its flu shot clinics.

“When UHS reduces barriers to getting a flu shot by filing insurance or offering them at a very low cost and by holding them at convenient locations across campus, Longhorns will take advantage of the opportunity to get the shot,” Bell said.

Bell said UHS ordered 10,000 doses, the same number they ordered last year.

“I think this says that we have a student body, faculty and staff who are highly motivated to stay healthy and perform at their best,” Bell said.

Students, faculty and staff can pay for flu shots from UHS with insurance, $10 in cash or by adding the charge to their What I Owe page. Nurses, nursing students and pharmacy students will administer shots at each clinic.

Biology senior Camille Alilaen directed students to shot stations during Tuesday’s clinic.

“The flu clinic is meant to reach as many students as possible,” Alilaen said. “It helps make flu shots accessible to those who are away from home.”

Nursing junior Erick Enriquez chose to get vaccinated Tuesday. Enriquez said although he did not pay with insurance, he still wanted the vaccination.

“I don’t get sick too often, but I may need it for an emergency when I would get sick,” he said. “I’m studying microbiology right now, and I know it can be very dangerous if you don’t have the vaccine.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, this year’s flu shots will immunize against the H3N2 variant of the virus, and cases of it have been reported since July. Austin/Travis County Health and Human Services is holding flu shot clinics outside of UT to help prepare the Austin community for flu season.

Carole Barasch, manager of communications and community development at Austin/Travis County Health and Human Services, said the county ordered 6,000 doses of the vaccination to provide for the five flu shot clinics they have scheduled for this year’s flu season.

UHS will continue to hold clinics through Thursday, Oct. 18 at various locations throughout campus. A complete flu shot schedule can be found at healthyhorns.utexas.edu.

Printed on Wednesday, September 26, 2012 as: UHS prevents influenza virus

Massage therapist Sheila Tremblay gives a massage to undeclared freshman Safi Jenkins at the Healthy Horns Fest Wednesday afternoon.

Photo Credit: Pu Ying Huang | Daily Texan Staff

University Health Services continues to live up to the Princeton Review’s recent praises as the third-best college health services organization nationwide by offering a health festival featuring information, food and games.

UHS presented its “HealthyHorns Fest” Wednesday at Gregory Gym Plaza to educate students about health-related problems. Sherry Bell, senior program coordinator for University Health Services, said the event aims to inform students of the health services UHS provides while displaying health-related campus resources.

“Our survey research shows us that a good number of students still don’t know that we exist,” Bell said. “Today we are able to serve students who never come to us when they are ill or injured.”

HealthyHorns Fest set up tents for each of its branches, including women’s health, urgent care, general medicine and sports medicine. Many tents distributed free items to students, including T-shirts, apples, safe sex kits and thermometers. Bell said UHS budgeted for the purchase of promotional materials to attract students’ attention.

“If we do not let students know who we are, students will not be able to use our services,” Bell said. “Our job does not stop at the doors of the Student Services Building. We need to reach out and bring information to students on campus because that is part of our mission.”

Electrical engineering freshman Natalie Herrera attended the festival and was drawn to UHS’s merchandising strategy.

“I have been trying to get one of the mustache T-shirts forever,” Herrera said. “I think the free items initially attract students and then while they are here they learn about a healthy lifestyle and how to keep yourself safe.”

The Student Health Advisory Committee, composed of students who give feedback to UHS administrators, helped plan HealthyHorns Fest. In addition to volunteering at the event, SHAC members met with the event coordinator in advance to discuss what activities attract students most.

International relations and global studies senior Kanishka Kogar, a committee member, said the organization worked hard to think on students’ level for the event.

“This year we have a photo booth, which was one of our ideas to bring students to the event,” Kogar said.

Kogar helped run a question-and-answer game at the sexual health tent. UHS aimed to advertise their first free sexually transmitted infections testing event next week. Kogar said many students may be unaware of these free sexual health services.

“This is a great avenue to let students know about our facilities,” Kogar said. “I would hope that students learn a little bit about how to be healthy.”

 Printed on Thursday, September 20, 2012 as: Festival encourages healthy behavior

With the high temperatures lasting into the fall, it may not feel like the flu season is fast approaching. But University Health Services is taking precautionary measures against the virus through a campaign to distribute vaccines to students and faculty during the coming weeks.

The UHS Flu Shot Campaign begins today at the Student Services Building in room G1.310 from noon to 4 p.m. The campaign will continue to offer the vaccine in various locations around campus until Oct. 20. The full list of dates and locations can be found on the UHS website.

The flu shot is available for free to all students and faculty who present their UT ID and a health insurance card, not including Medicare, Medicaid, Tricare or HMO plans. The shot costs $10 for those without health insurance.

Senior UHS coordinator Sherry Bell said the flu is more serious than students usually realize and stressed the correlation between contracting the virus and decreased academic performance.

Bell said almost 20 percent of respondents said they have suffered a negative academic impact in the last 12 months because of a cold, the flu or sore throats, according to a 2010 campus health assessment survey.

She said providing a flu shot campaign is central to UHS’s purpose of promoting a healthy environment on campus.

“Campus is, by nature, crowded, so it makes it much easier to pick up viruses that cause cold and flu,” Bell said.

Bell said the University is prepared to distribute 10,000 vaccines during this year’s campaign and said last year’s immunizations totaled 9,028. Bell also said misguided fears of the vaccine causing a person to get the flu are nothing to worry about.

“The vaccine doesn’t have the ability to cause the flu,” Bell said. “The virus in the vaccine is dead.”

Uninsured and under-insured Austinites can also receive free flu shots provided by the Austin/Travis County Health and Human Services Department at participating clinics.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, everyone six months and older should get the vaccine each year as soon as it becomes available. According to their statistics, the number of influenza related deaths for the past 30 years ranged from 3,300 to 49,000 per year.

Radio-television-film sophomore Fabian Fernandez said he is choosing to opt out of this years flu shot campaign.

“I don’t think vaccines actually work so my friends joke that I’m into the conspiracies about them,” Fernandez said. “I’ve never had the flu shot and I’ve also never had the flu so I won’t get one [this year].”

Sophomore Jacob Perez said that he has taken the flu shot in the past and plans to take it again this year.

“The vaccines are really convenient since they give them out all over campus,” Perez said. “If you have insurance, you might as well.”

Printed September 27, 2011 as: Flu shot campaign promotes vaccines for students with or without insurance

University Health Services has about $230,000 less for the 2011-12 budget than the current year’s budget, said Sherry Bell, senior program coordinator for University Health Services.

Bell said the department has been preparing for potential budget cuts for the past few years.

“We were looking down the road to prepare,” Bell said.

UHS is saving money by moving toward an electronic health record system, a centralized check-in system and a piloted online appointment system, she said. Each of these reduces the amount of staff needed to run UHS.

Donna Bellinghausen, associate vice president for student affairs, declined to comment due to the complexity of the topic.