College football and basketball games may provide more than a way for students to show school spirit - they could help prevent the flu.
According to a new study by researchers at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center, colleges and universities should implement new or improved influenza vaccine strategies, such as giving flu shots at sporting events or during campus-wide, day-long campaigns, to increase the number of their students who get the annual flu vaccine.
In the early online edition of the December issue of the Journal of American College Health, the researchers found that only one in five college students at eight North Carolina universities reported getting a flu shot during the 2009-10 flu season.
"Influenza virus is contagious and is known to circulate through college campuses, enhanced by close living quarters, typical social activities and low vaccine coverage," said Kathy Poehling, M.D., associate professor pediatrics at Wake Forest Baptist and lead author of the study.
"With influenza virus already being detected this November, it is likely to increase in the next one to three months and may overlap with exam periods. Although it is hard to predict the severity of the coming flu season, we usually have more influenza activity after a mild season like last year's."
In this study, believed to be the first multi-university study to assess seasonal flu vaccine coverage, a total of 4,090 college students participated in a confidential, web-based survey in late October and November 2009 regarding whether they had received a flu shot.