PAUL SMITHS - The Paul Smith's College community is firing the first shots in the war on this year's flu season.
Since the H1N1 (swine flu) virus struck about three years ago, the college has been taking evasive action to prevent flu from hitting its campus too hard, making vaccinations free to students and faculty.
This year, Reiko Rexilius-Tuthill, the college's nurse, has been going from office to office to vaccinate faculty and hitting up as many classes as she can to vaccinate students.
Paul Smith’s College Nurse Reiko Rexilius-Tuthill gives a flu vaccination shot to student Elizabeth Myers, 20, of Williamson, during a Tuesday afternoon class.
(Enterprise photo — Jessica Collier)
Rexilius-Tuthill said she used to bring all the kids into her office for flu shots, but then she realized she was gathering them in the same spot as the students who were already sick.
"That's a bad scenario when you're trying to prevent something," she told the Enterprise.
This year, she's been to at least 20 classes and vaccinated at least 380 people in the college community in the last two weeks.
For each class, she goes in and talks to the students about the shots and explains how they are important to building up immunity across campus.
She told a classroom full of students Tuesday afternoon that she calculated last year that students are missing out on about $250 of instruction when they miss a day of class to be sick in bed.
"That's a lot of money to just flush down the toilet," Rexilius-Tuthill said. "Most of us can't afford to give up what you invest here."
She noted that flus are worse than a cold, and they are often unavoidable at a place like a college campus where people live in such close quarters.
"It does feel like a truck hit you," she said. "It will come, because every year we get it."
She cited statistics like the 38,000 deaths in the U.S. each year due to flu complications, and noted that while many students are young and healthy, they could pass a flu to someone who goes home to children or older people who might be more susceptible to complications.
Rexilius-Tuthill told students that if they have religious or medical objections, they should not get the shots, but otherwise, she invited them to line up.
She noted that the vaccine is not a live virus but rather gives the body recognition of the flu so it knows how to fight it.
"It will already have the army built up for it, and the ability to produce more," she said.
About 10 students in Tuesday afternoon's class lined up, signed a release form, and received a shot in their arms to protect them from the flu.
Rexilius-Tuthill said that the more she puts up these battle walls in advance, the less severe the flu attack is each year.