Annual Got Flu talk hosted at Wilfrid Laurier

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Graphic by Jaime Mere

On Tuesday, Oct. 29, Wilfrid Laurier University hosted its annual Got Flu seminar, a free event held on the Waterloo campus.

The event was open to the public and focused on the influenza virus, how the flu vaccination works and how the flu affects the Waterloo region specifically.

“We have this every year, we try to talk about the virus itself, how the immune response detects the virus and tries to protect you from it, how the vaccine works; so we have an immunologist, a virologist, and then someone from public health come from the Waterloo Region of Public Health to talk about the vaccine in the waterloo region and also the incidence of influenza in the Waterloo region,” said Stephanie DeWitte-Orr, associate professor at Laurier. “I think we think it doesn’t happen here but it actually happens at quite a high frequency.”

This year’s speakers were Stephanie DeWitte-Orr, an immunology expert, Sarah Poynter, a postdoctoral researcher on immunology and Kristy Wright, a registered nurse and manager of infectious disease control for the Region of Waterloo Public Health.

The Got Flu talk is targeted towards university students and aims to provide them with the information they need to make an informed decision regarding their health and encourage them to get the flu vaccination.

“What we found, we did a little bit of digging into vaccination uptake, so what populations elect to get the flu vaccine, and the university population is one of the lowest uptake populations, so they’re one of the least likely to choose to be vaccinated,” said DeWitte-Orr. “What we wanted to do was to create an information night to give university students the information that they need to make the right choice for them and hopefully that would be getting vaccinated.”

“They’re just not choosing to get vaccinated, however, university students have a really high risk because of their lifestyle; you are stressed, you are in high-density housing, you have high-density classes and you may not be sleeping very well, you may not be eating very well, not exercising regularly, lots of high-risk situations to make you more susceptible to influenza.”

Despite being relatively harmless, many people still choose not to get the flu immunization due to misconceptions about the vaccine.

“I think a lot of people are worried it’s going to make you sick; it’s not going to give you the flu because the virus has been inactivated so it can’t make you sick, it can’t give you influenza,” DeWitte-Orr said. “The other misconception is they don’t think they’re going to get sick or that the vaccines not going to work; and it is possible that they choose the wrong strains and a new strain comes up that the vaccine doesn’t protect against but its most likely when people say ‘I had the flu shot, I still got sick,’ its likely they got sick but it wasn’t influenza.”

The flu vaccination protects not only the individual who has been immunized but also those around them, mitigating the spread of influenza.

“You yourself will be protected, but if you remain healthy you’re not going to be sick to transmit or to pass on influenza to people who can’t get vaccinated, so the elderly or the very very young. When you choose to vaccinate, you’re choosing to protect yourself, but you’re also choosing to protect those of high risk in our population,” said DeWitte-Orr.

For students who wish to get immunized on campus, Laurier’s Wellness Centre will be hosting flu shot clinics on multiple dates throughout the month of November.

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