With the flu season fast approaching, the virus-savvy can take preventative measures with the help of the Santa Barbara County Public Health Dept. and UCSB’s Student Health Services.

Flu shots will be provided countywide in October and November by the health department. Judy Sorce-Bauman, representative for the Immunization Project, said that due to the ever-changing nature of flu strains, the department recommends that people receive a flu shot annually.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 10 to 20 percent of Americans contract the flu each year. Statistics for Santa Barbara are unavailable due to the nature of data collection for influenza.

Sorce-Bauman said the flu is not a reportable disease because few people see a doctor and many self-medicate. The method for obtaining statistics relies on blood samples collected from patients who do seek medical attention, and it is through this information that new strains are identified and immunizations are formulated.

The flu is transmitted by means of coughing, sneezing and other forms of airborne droplets. Avoiding the flu is more difficult in the close living quarters of college students. The high probability of getting the flu is a powerful incentive for students to invest in preventative immunization.

” All the years I’ve gotten [the shot], I haven’t gotten the flu, so that proves it works,” undeclared freshman Elisa Dolowich said.

Several clinics in the area are offering flu shots for $5. Shots are free for people over 60 or with a doctor’s confirmation of chronic illness.

Sorce-Bauman said anyone with asthma, diabetes or other forms of chronic illness should see a doctor for a note and get a flu shot. The Immunization Project also recommends people who are in contact with anyone who has immunosuppressant illnesses to get a flu shot. According to the health department, 683 flu shots were administered last year.

Student Health is also offering flu shots and plans to have them available for the next month. Dr. Cynthia Bowers, director of Student Health, said the Student Health pharmacy gave approximately 1,500 flu shots last year and anticipates similar numbers this year.

“Flu shots are offered every year to students and staff for $10,” Bowers said. “We don’t mark up significantly because the goal is to get as many people vaccinated as possible.”

Walk-in shots are available on Mondays from 9-11 a.m. and Fridays from 2-4 p.m. in the Student Health classroom.

Bowers said one of the main objectives of encouraging people to get flu shots is to “avoid public confusion” differentiating between the flu and SARS, Sudden Acute Respiratory Syndrome. Symptoms of SARS and influenza are very much alike, and the flu shot could prevent many from contracting the flu and alleviate some of the worry, Bowers said.

Some of the new forms of vaccines for the flu, such as the intranasal one, are not available on a wide public scale.

“[The intranasal vaccine] is efficient, but very costly,” Sorce-Bauman said. “Not many college students can afford them.”

Bowers said the new $65 intranasal vaccine is only available to people between the ages of 5 and 49 who are completely healthy and have no breathing inhibitions.

Sorce-Bauman said the health department hopes the new vaccines will be more affordable in the future so many more people will be protected.

Other new forms of flu shot are targeted at the elderly and chronically ill, but are not available to the large percentage of the population that contracts the flu annually. With better funding in the future, this goal may be attainable for the health department, Sorce-Bauman said.

The Goleta Valley Community Center at 5679 Hollister Ave. is offering free immunizations on Oct. 28 from 12:30-5 p.m. to people who are over 60 and have a doctor’s proof of a chronic illness.

For people 12 years and older, flu shots will be available for $5 at the Goleta Valley Cottage Hospital’s Ashton Center, located at 5333 Hollister Ave., on Nov. 14 from 7-9 a.m.