Did you get a call from a concerned (read: nagging) parent last week asking you to get your flu shot? If so, it was most likely a result of the Student Health Center's Shoo the Flu campaign.

As a part of the campaign, Chantelle Bernard, the office manager for the health center, sent an email to all University of Richmond students' parents informing them of the flu shot clinics that were to be held on Oct. 22, 23 and 24 in the Westhampton Hanging Lounge.

The health center started sending these emails to parents last year, said Sarah Fisher, the nurse supervisor for the health center. "We have staff in the office with children who go to U.Va. and Virginia Tech," Fisher said, "where they send flu shot reminders to parents. This is where we got the idea." The health center wanted to try as many tactics as possible to encourage students to get vaccinated, and the hope was that parents would contact their students to remind them, she said.

It is important to get vaccinated because it not only decreases a single person's chance of getting the flu, Fisher said, but it also helps decrease the spread of the flu throughout campus. Flu season typically begins in December during exam time, when it is most critical for students to be healthy, she said.

The campaign was also supported by the Wellness Education Bandits, a group of student volunteers that promotes public health, said sophomore KyungSun Lee, a member of the Bandits. "Our main goal is to let other students know how important and easy it is to be healthy in an interactive way," she said. The student group helped market the flu shot clinics by putting up flyers and passing out pens shaped like the shot.

The health center has been holding flu shot clinics in Tyler Hanes Commons for the last eight years, Fisher said. There is usually a short walk-in registration process before nurses administer the vaccination, but the whole process takes about five minutes, she said. The cost of the vaccine is $20, which can be paid in cash or check. This year, the health center is also allowing students to bill the flu shot directly to their student account, according to the email sent to parents. The clinics gave out approximately 400 vaccinations last week, up from the 300 given last year, Fisher said.

The health center still has 150-200 doses left, so if you missed the clinics you can still schedule an appointment through Dial-A-Nurse to get vaccinated, Fisher said. They will be administering flu shots for as long as they have doses, and may even schedule another clinic during November, she said.

Something to remember about the flu vaccine is that it does not give you the flu, Fisher said. Unlike the chickenpox vaccine, which is made with a weakened form of the virus that actually solicits a response from the immune system, the flu vaccine is inactive and will protect from the flu without actually giving someone the virus, she said. There may be some redness or soreness around the vaccinated area, but the receiver of the vaccine will remain healthy, she said.

And for those students who have a fear of needles, the health center has a new intradermal vaccine, Fisher said. The pre-filled syringes have a needle of about 1.5 millimeters long and are designed to make the vaccination process as simple as possible, she said.

Other ways to improve your chances of staying healthy this semester include getting adequate sleep, eating healthy, staying hydrated, trying not to touch your eyes or mouth and, of course, washing your hands frequently, Fisher said. The flu can spread through direct contact or through respiratory droplets in the air, she said, so also try to keep your distance from those who are sick.

And if you think you may already have the flu, the health center can help you treat the symptoms, Fisher said. It is important to get plenty of fluids and rest, she said, and it is best not to go to class or out in the community until 24 hours after the fever associated with the flu has gone down.

Contact reporter Mia Webber at mia.webber@richmond.edu