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Rochester College to host free health fair for community

By: Mary Beth Almond | Rochester Post | Published October 13, 2015

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ROCHESTER — Along with the chill in the air comes the season of sniffles, coughs and the flu — which can be manageable for some, but deadly for others.

This year, Rochester College is partnering with Alana’s Foundation and the Visiting Nurses Association of Southeastern Michigan to help ensure that students and community members stay healthy this flu season, which typically runs October through May.

The group will host a seasonal health fair in which free flu shots and other health screenings will be available 9 a.m.-1 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 17, at the Rochester College Theatre, 800 W. Avon Road in Rochester Hills.

Rochester School of Nursing Associate Dean Dr. Marisa Ferrari said the health fair, which is a first for the college this year, was organized to assist those in the community who might not have health care and might be unable to afford the vaccine, as well as those who just want to get vaccinated quickly without the hassle of scheduling a doctor’s appointment.

“We are a Christian college, so we practice servant leadership. This is just one way we can serve the community: by supplying them with this free service,” she said.

Ferrari said the flu vaccine can protect those who get one from getting ill and can make the flu less severe if they do happen to get it. This year’s influenza vaccine — both the mist and the injection — is made to protect against Influenza A (H1N1) viruses, Influenza A (H3N2) viruses and Influenza B viruses. There are also no-mercury vaccines available upon request. Those who have health insurance are asked to bring their insurance card to the fair.

Alana’s Foundation covers the cost of flu vaccines for those who don’t have health insurance. The charity is named in memory of Alana Yaksich, who died at age 5 1/2  in 2003 due to flu-related complications — specifically, swelling of the brain caused by a 106-degree fever.

JoAnna Yaksich, Alana’s aunt, said her niece — who had no underlying health issues — had not been vaccinated against the flu because her age was not in the recommended range for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines at the time.

“I had no idea at the time that the flu could be deadly,” she said.

In 2009, her family created Alana’s Foundation in an effort to educate the public about the severity of influenza and the importance of vaccinating children each year. The following year, the organization expanded to offer support to all families that have lost a child, regardless of cause.

According to revised CDC guidelines, everyone 6 months and older should receive a yearly seasonal flu vaccine. Although the flu virus has been known to mutate throughout the season, lowering the overall effectiveness of the vaccine, medical professionals say some protection is better than none at all. That’s why local health officials are encouraging those 6 months and older to get a flu vaccine this fall. Doctors say it takes about two weeks for the body to build immunity against the virus.

Free health screening assessments will also be available at the health fair, including blood-glucose testing, neurological assessments, vital sign checks, body mass index checks, cholesterol screenings and skin health screenings. Dr. Raj Grewal, an internal medicine doctor with Mercy Place, will be on hand to answer any health questions at his “ask the doctor” table. The event is open to all ages, and the public is welcome to attend. Those who plan to come are encouraged to pre-register, which will ensure that enough vaccines are on hand. To pre-register, visit www.rc.edu/healthfair or call (248) 218-2280.

This is the second health fair that the team has hosted this month. Approximately 100 people attended the first health fair, held Oct. 3.

“We had people of all ages there, from a 1-year-old to a 98-year-old,” Ferrari said. “It was a big success, and we are hoping even more people come out for our second event.”

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