Free HPV and flu shots from Student Health Services are available Oct. 3 for all IUPUI students

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IUPUI's vaccination clinic Oct. 3 will provide students with flu and HPV shots to keep everyone on campus healthy not only this fall, but -- when it comes to HPV -- for their lifetime. Photo by Liz Kaye, Indiana University

Simply breathing in the air around someone with the flu is all it takes, said Dr. Stephen Wintermeyer, director of Student Health Services at IUPUI.

In light of the upcoming flu season and the start of a new school year, IUPUI Health Services is hosting a Get Poked! Free Student Vaccination Clinic from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Oct. 3 in the Campus Center TV Lounge.

Flu myths

I can catch the flu from the vaccine -- FALSE
The flu vaccine is from an inactive virus. If someone gets sick with the flu after getting a vaccination, it is because the vaccine has not had time to work yet.

The vaccine is all I need to keep from getting the flu -- FALSE
The flu vaccine decreases the chance of getting sick, but you could still catch the virus from coming into contact with someone who is sick.

The flu is synonymous with a bad cold -- FALSE
Although there are similar symptoms between the two conditions, the flu and the common cold are not the same thing. The flu can be potentially fatal, so if a person gets sick, they need to take action to treat it.

I should get antibiotics if my fever lasts more than a day or two -- FALSE
Antibiotics treat bacteria, not viruses. One symptom of the flu might be a bacterial infection, but an antibiotic will not solve the whole issue.

I can get the flu by going outside in the cold with my hair wet -- FALSE
You can only get the flu by exposure to the virus. Cold air and the flu are not directly related.

IUPUI is teaming up with the Indiana State Department of Health to offer free vaccinations for both the flu and HPV. Vaccinations are in limited supply and will be given out on a first-come, first-served basis. It is suggested that students bring a photo ID and their CrimsonCard to confirm they are a student at IUPUI.

Although the flu season does not officially start until October, getting the vaccine early and allowing it time to work before people are exposed to it is a good way to prevent getting sick, Wintermeyer said. The flu is a very common viral infection that affects more than 3 million people each year. It is highly contagious and can be fatal if not treated correctly. If someone showing symptoms of the flu coughs into the air or touches you or an object you then touch, you are at risk of getting sick.

Wintermeyer suggests that anyone showing signs of the flu should seek treatment by visiting the Student Health Center or their family doctor and stay at home to recover. Anyone at risk of becoming sick should use hand sanitizer and avoid coming into close contact with people who are already sick.

The other vaccination offered at the clinic targets HPV, the most common sexually transmitted infection in the United States. Most cases of HPV go away on their own, but both men and women have an increased risk of genital warts and an increased risk of several cancers, such as anal, oropharyngeal and cervical cancers, if ignored.

HPV myths

No one I know has ever had HPV but me -- FALSE
Studies show that 80 percent of people contract HPV at some point in their lives, whether they know it or not.

If my partner or I have HPV, someone has cheated -- FALSE
This virus can remain dormant in a person's system for years, and unfortunately, there is no way of finding out when someone received the virus. HPV symptoms often never show up. Most infected people find out they have it because they go to the doctor for an unrelated health concern.

Only casual sex leads to HPV infection -- FALSE
It is true that the more sexual partners a person has, the more at risk they are to contracting the virus. But this does not mean monogamous relationships are not a risk. Any sexually active couple who has had previous contact with the virus could contract it.

If I get genital warts, I have a higher risk of cervical cancer -- FALSE
Both of these are potential symptoms of HPV, but one does not lead to the other. Warts are associated with low-risk HPV types that are not associated with cervical cancer. Cervical cancer is a high-risk HPV that could develop, but not from the genital warts.

Refusing to use a condom and becoming intimate with someone you do not know are easy ways of potentially contracting this virus. IUPUI encourages everyone under the age of 26 to receive the vaccination to combat the risk of HPV.

"HPV vaccine rates in Indiana are the lowest of any state in the country, even lower than the District of Colombia," Wintermeyer said.

Receiving these vaccines is not required for most students, but to keep campus happy and healthy, it is strongly encouraged. Every immunization a student receives will count toward any required shots for the 2018-19 school year.

Assistant professor of health communications Katharine Head expressed her hope for the Get Poked! Free Vaccination Clinic.

"We're hopeful IUPUI students will stop by the clinic, 'get poked' and tell their friends about it. This is a great opportunity for our students to get vaccinated at absolutely no cost to them," she said.