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Flu Shots Worthwhile for College Students

Getting seasonal vaccine reduced illness rates, missed classes, study shows

FRIDAY, Dec. 5 (HealthDay News) -- Flu vaccinations reduce college students' risk of illness, related health-care visits and school interruptions, a new study shows

Researchers at the VA Medical Center and University of Minnesota studied students on two campuses during four flu seasons from 2002 to 2006.

Each year, 9 percent to 20 percent of U.S. college and university students get the flu, according to background information in the study of 12,975 students, of which 30.2 percent had a flu vaccination and 24.1 percent experienced at least one flu-like symptom during flu season. Vaccinated students were much less likely to get sick than those who weren't vaccinated.

"Vaccination was also associated with significant reductions in influenza-like illness, associated [health] provider visits, antibiotic use, impaired school performance, and numbers of days of missed classes, missed work and illness during the influenza season," wrote Dr. Kristin L. Nichol and colleagues.

When they averaged their findings over all four flu seasons, the researchers concluded that: One day of illness was prevented for every two students who were vaccinated; one day of missed class was prevented for every 17 students vaccinated; one day of missed work was prevented for every 11 students vaccinated, and one day spent in bed was prevented for every six students vaccinated.

The study was published in the December issue of the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine.

"Current recommendations for the prevention and control of influenza encourage vaccination for all persons 6 months and older who wish to reduce their risk of influenza illness. Our findings highlight the benefits that would accrue to the nearly 18 million college and university students in this country if they were vaccinated," the study authors wrote.

The study received funding from Aventis Pasteur and MedImmune, and Nichol received other research funding from, or served as a consultant to, Sanofi Pasteur, GlaxoSmithKline, MedImmune, CSL and Novartis.

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more about preventing seasonal flu.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: JAMA/Archives journals, news release, Dec. 1, 2008

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