A contagious respiratory illness, also called the flu, has caused a great deal of stress and absence from class and work alike this seasonAccording to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an average of 5 to 20 percent of the United States population gets the flu every year. Some 200,000 are hospitalized due to flu complications and 36,000 die as a result of the illness.Laroue Rose, 23, an international studies political science major, missed four days of school and two days of work due to the flu. “I couldn’t even tell you how much I slept,” said Rose, who had a fever, chills, swollen and infected glands and extreme fatigue. Rose missed work to go to the clinic, which cost her $150 for medication and the visit because she didn’t have insurance. Her professors were understanding, as she had a receipt from the clinic to prove that she was in fact sick. Beth Benne, director of the Student Health Center, said people think the flu is a gastrointestinal flu, where diarrhea and vomiting occur. “Influenza is an upper respiratory infection,” Benne explained. Common symptoms of the flu include fever, body aches, fatigue and possible vomiting and diarrhea. One of the more serious side effects of viral influenza is pneumonia. It first gets into a person’s lungs and when their immune system is down, they are opened up to a secondary bacterial infection. Once the flu is contracted, a person can be down for a week to 10 days. Flu season normally comes in the middle of December, but as Benne explained, it was a little late and didn’t really hit until January or February.”I’m not seeing an increased number of influenza (cases),” Benne said. “If students aren’t coming to see me, they’re just staying at home, which is probably what they should be doing.” Of the 21,000 students at Pierce, 150 shots were bought for the Student Health Center. “It’s not like a lot of people come and get it,” Benne said. She has at least 20 doses left that will expire in August 2008. “People get the flu and then come in for the vaccine. They say, ‘Holy cow, I don’t ever want to get this again.'”Benne strongly believes in getting the flu shot, as she has had the shot every year for the past 10 years and hasn’t had the flu. A misconception that Benne said people have is that the flu vaccine is going to give you the flu. “If you are exposed to a strain of the virus that is different from the vaccine that you’ve got, then you might indeed get the flu,” she said. “There are so many strains in the annual flu that even if you get influenza after you’ve received the vaccine, it’s going to be a milder case because you’ve developed antibodies to some of the similar strains by getting the vaccine.” Patricia Siever, history professor, noticed a drop in student attendance due to illness. When she was sick one afternoon in March, she let her students out early. Students are not the only ones who have been out sick. According to Monica Watson, an assistant in the Admissions and Records office, in February there were about 15 professors out per day, for days at a time. Since March, it has eased up to only about eight to 10 professors being absent daily.Benne suggested hand washing, coughing and sneezing appropriately and staying at home as a few ways to prevent catching the flu. The flu shots are available for $15 at the Student Health Center, located in the Campus Center by the cafeteria.