The Florida Department of Health is working in collaboration with USF Student Health Services (SHS) to provide free flu shots and Sexually Transmitted Infection (STI) testing for students Wednesday from 9:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.
The free testing and shots will be available to students at SHS’ offices, located next to the USF Bookstore.
All other functions of SHS, aside from urgent care, will be temporarily halted to accommodate the free event.
Dr. Joseph Puccio, executive and medical director of SHS, encourages students to attend, putting an emphasis on the flu’s past track record of affecting college-age Floridians.
“The flu is something that affects all students,” Puccio said. “Last year was a very hard-hitting flu season in which a lot of students were affected with the virus. What we’re trying to do is protect the students as early as possible so that we can prevent as many cases as we can.”
The flu — formally known as influenza — is a respiratory infection caused by a variety of different viruses, according to The Florida Department of Health. An average of about 36,000 people per year in the U.S. die from the infection and about 114,000 people per year are admitted to hospitals.
Due to confidentiality laws, little data can be found on the number of flu cases at USF, but, according to the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases, students who come down with the flu can sometimes be sick up to eight days.
STI are infections received and transmitted through unprotected sex, according to The Florida Department of Health. Fifty-eight percent of recorded STI cases in Florida were from people under the age of 25.
The flu is easily contracted, Puccio said. Students can be infected through someone who is sneezing, coughing or just simply sharing a drink.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, during the 2016-17 flu season, an estimated 30.9 million people were sick with the flu, 14.5 million went to a health care provider for the flu and an estimated 600,000 people were hospitalized from it.
The official CDC website states that “the estimates for last season were approximately as high as the estimated burden for 2012-13 and 2014-15 seasons,” implying that the illness has remained relatively stagnant over the past few years.
Students will be able to have STI screenings the same day as their free flu shot in an effort to reduce the amount of time spent in the building.
According to the American Sexual Health Association, one in two sexually active persons will contract an STI by age 25. Although information on how many USF students who have contracted STIs is confidential, Puccio says that the number is consistent with data found by local county statistics, specifying that one in four college students have an STI.
“It is customary for the STI screenings that we recommend students begin to be tested at least twice a year,” Puccio said. “We’re just trying to stay within the standards that someone can get free testing multiple times in a calendar year.”
Puccio says that the speed in which the flu and STIs can spread, along with the openness of a college campus, can create dangerous situations.
“Every student should be concerned about the flu because none of us work in isolation,” Puccio said. “We’re all working with faculty, staff and other students. If one person gets sick, the possibility of passing it on to someone else is very high. We do recommend everyone take precautions to protect themselves.”