Flu vaccination recommended for holiday airplane travelers

Scientific studies have shown the direct correlation between air travel and the spread of the influenza virus, therefore it may be important for people to get the flu shot before they fly to better protect themselves.

Now that the holiday season is approaching, many Florida A&M University students will be traveling home, many by plane. “The flu is easily spread through coughing, sneezing and germy hands,” said Dr. Shankar Shetty, medical director at FAMU Health Clinic. “Washing your hands thoroughly can drastically reduce your chances of getting the flu.” 

Shetty said it is much easier to get the flu when flying because you are in close quarters with other passengers. A plane trip makes people sit for hours at a time within close proximity of others who may have colds or the flu. 

There are numerous ways to prevent getting sick, but the most effective and common way is to get the flu shot, Shetty said.  Students must be cautious so they won’t get the virus from other passengers who may have it. “One way to travel may be to carry a safety kit,” Shetty said. Most safety kits include vitamin-rich foods and plenty of fluids. 

“I plan on traveling by plane for Christmas break,” said Alishia Ferrell, 20, an industrial engineering student from Ypsilanti, Mich.  “I didn’t realize that there was a high risk of getting the flu while in a plane. But now that I am aware, I plan on taking the necessary precautions.”

The FAMU Student Health Clinic offers the flu shot for $10.  “The best time to get the flu shot is at the end of October or the beginning of November,” Shetty said. “This is because the shot takes about two to three weeks to build immunity in your body.” 

Now would also be a good time to get the flu shot because it is near Christmas, a time when many students travel.

“I’m going home to Maryland for the break, and I will be flying. But I don’t feel like it’s necessary to get the flu shot because I have a high immune system,” said Rodney Dubose, 20, a computer information system student from Largo, Md. “I am, however, concerned about my surroundings on the plane since I will be in close-knit quarters with others.”When some students fly, they do their best to avoid getting sick from the trip.

“When I fly, I always wear long pants, long-sleeved tops and wash my hands multiple times,” said Shayla Kelly, 21, an elementary education student from Palmetto. “I get the flu shot every year, and since I will be flying home for the break, I will definitely be getting the flu shot very soon.”

Other facilities besides the FAMU clinic are also offering the flu shot now.  The Leon County Health Department, located at 1515 Old Bainbridge Road, also gives the flu shot. 

Appointments may be set, and the fee for the shot is $21. There, the shot is open to all ages.             

“Before I go home for winter break, I plan on getting the flu shot,” said Tasharrie Smith, 20, a computer information systems student from Chicago. “It is good to know that many places offer the flu shot.”

More information on traveling safety and protection from the flu can be found at www.pandemicflu.gov.