Fall flu clinics proactively protect students

A yard sign promoting the Flu Shot Clinic stands outside the Stamps Health Services building. Students can receive their flu shot by setting up an appointment with Stamps. // Photo by Garrett Shoemaker Student Publications

As the temperatures once again start to drop this fall, Tech offers flu shot clinics on campus, and this year may be more important than ever to get a flu shot.

The spread of the seasonal flu is expected during the winter months, and Tech has prepared accordingly for the virus by hosting multiple flu clinics during the months of September and October. At these clinics students and faculty can receive a flu shot in fewer than 15 minutes.

Students can receive their flu shot on campus by making an appointment with Stamps Health Services or by going to one of their many walk-in flu clinics throughout the semester.

The clinics require no prior appointments and are open to all members of the Tech community. They take place about every two weeks. The first clinics took place on Sept. 21-22. The next set of clinics will take place on Oct. 28 and 29 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at McCamish Pavilion. Any Tech student who has paid their health fee can receive a flu shot for free.

Dr. Benjamin Holton, senior director at Stamps Health Services stated in an interview published by Tech, “While it is always important to get a flu shot, this year is particularly important.”

Many experts, like Dr. Holton, have stated that the ongoing pandemic will make it more critical for everyone to be vaccinated for the flu. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) reports that people will be faced with both risks of catching the flu and COVID-19 this winter, and the flu could complicate efforts to control the spread of coronavirus.

The CDC states that COVID-19 and influenza cause similar symptoms, such as fever, cough, body aches and more. As a result, individuals who become infected with the flu may also need to be tested for COVID-19 and be required to quarantine until they get the test results.

This could keep people out of work and school more than is needed and could also lead to coronavirus testing shortages across the country.

“While COVID-19 and flu viruses are thought to spread in similar ways, COVID-19 is more contagious among certain populations and age groups than flu,” the CDC website reads.

“Also, COVID-19 has been observed to have more superspreading events than flu. This means the virus that causes COVID-19 can quickly and easily spread to a lot of people and result in continuous spreading among people as time progresses.”

Additionally, this flu season could also further stress hospitals as severe flu cases could take away beds and other resources from COVID-19 patients. Hospitals across the nation have faced shortages of ventilators and ICU beds for months, and serious cases of the flu could exacerbate the problems healthcare systems are facing during this pandemic.

The CDC also reports that it is possible to have the flu and COVID-19 simultaneously, which they are still studying to understand how the effects of the two diseases manifesting concurrently.

These two respiratory illnesses will make this flu season especially interesting, but Tech’s flu clinics and COVID-19 testing sites offer students ways to stay healthy this upcoming winter.

The flu clinics this year have been adapted to comply with COVID-19 safety guidelines.

In accordance to University System of Georgia guidelines, all students and faculty are required to wear masks while inside the clinic location, and their temperature will be taken as they enter. Social distancing will also be prevalent at each clinic site.

Asymptomatic COVID-19 testing continues to remain available at many indoor locations both on east and campus as students are encouraged to test weekly.

This flu season will be different (and perhaps more dangerous) than any before, but Tech provides many opportunities for students to protect themselves against the virus before it starts circulating this winter.

Members of the Tech community can visit health.gatech.edu/additional/flu to stay informed on the symptoms and treatments of the flu as well as the upcoming dates and locations for the next flu clinics on campus.