The issue that our group was trying to solve is the lack of vaccination among college students in the metro-Atlanta area, through the question, “How might we provide college students without health coverage in the metro-Atlanta area with information on influenza and access to the influenza vaccine?” This is an issue because between 5% to 20% of the United States is infected by influenza virus yearly. This is especially hard on college students, who on average experience 8 days or more of symptoms, particularly because only 8%-39% of college students receive the vaccine yearly. This issue is evocative of a larger problem: many college students are not aware of or able to receive the flu vaccine. To solve this issue, we followed the design thinking process.
Influenza virus, or “the flu” is an infection of the throat, nose, and lungs. This infection of the respiratory tract is caused by the influenza virus. The virus usually spreads during the winter in temperate climates (December-February). When many people catch the flu at the same time, the situation is called a flu epidemic.
The proteins that coat the flu virus change constantly. As a result, new strains of the flu virus circulate every few years. In some countries, people at high risk are encouraged to get an influenza vaccination every year. Some of the people at risk are those over 65 years, children with heart or lung conditions and health care workers.
The common cold has similar symptoms of the flu, but the influenza virus has much harsher and severe symptoms. Other areas that are not respiratory may be or get infected as well. Signs and symptoms include cough, chills, fever muscle aches, headache, fatigue, running nose and weakness. The nose may become runny or congested, the throat may become sore, and a cough may move from wet to dry as the virus runs its course on your body. The signs and symptoms could last for a week to about ten days.
The influenza virus is spread largely through the air. A typical situation is where one person infected with the flu sneezes or coughs within close proximity with another susceptible person. Microscopic droplets of the virus, suspended in the air, are breathed in by the other susceptible person. Once the influenza virus lands on the lining of the nose, throat or other body areas corresponding to breathing, it reproduces rapidly.
Usually the flu goes away with drinking plenty of fluids, rest and taking mild pain medicine. Health care providers may prescribe certain medicine for people who are at high risk. When symptoms do not go away after seven to ten days, there is difficulty in breathing or persistent high temperatures, a health care provider should be involved immediately.
Influenza spreads around the world in a yearly outbreak, resulting in about three to five million cases of severe illness and about 250,000 to 500,000 deaths. 5% to 20% is the percentage of the U.S. population that will get the flu, on average, each year. On college campuses, influenza viruses are known to spread rapidly, through constant exposure in close spaces like common living spaces, classrooms, community restrooms, and through social activities. On average, college students who get the flu experience up to eight or more days of illness along with increased rates of school absenteeism healthcare use, and impaired educational performance.
The flu vaccine generally takes about 1 and a half to 2 weeks for the flu vaccine to protect you from catching the flu virus. The influenza vaccine is the best repellent against the flu virus, in addition to proper hygiene. Flu vaccination can reduce flu illnesses, doctor visits, and missed work and school due to flu, as well as prevent flu-related hospitalizations and deaths. Most healthy adults may be able to infect other people beginning 1 day before symptoms develop and up to 5 to 7 days after becoming sick. Children may pass the virus for longer than 7 days. Symptoms start 1 to 4 days after the virus enters the body of the host. That means that you may be able to pass on the influenza virus to someone else before you know you are sick, as well as while you are sick. Some people can be infected with infected but have no signs of infection. During this period, those people may still spread the flu virus to others.
Virus vs Bacteria
Virus: A virus is an ultra microscopic infectious organism that, having no independent metabolic activity, can replicate only within a cell of another host organism. A virus consists of a core of nucleic acid, either RNA or DNA, surrounded by a coating of antigenic protein and sometimes a lipid layer surrounds it as well. The virus provides the genetic code for replication, and the host cell provides the necessary energy and raw materials. There are more than 200 viruses that are known to cause disease in humans. Influenza is caused by a virus.
Bacteria: Bacteria are very small organisms, usually consisting of one cell, that lack chlorophyll (a green pigment found in plants that allows for the production of food). Except for viruses, they are the smallest living things on Earth. Many bacteria are so small that a million of them, laid end-to-end, would measure no more than about five centimeters (two inches). The term bacteria is the plural form of the word bacterium, which represents a single organism. Bacteria are found everywhere, in the air, soil, water, and inside your body and on your skin. They tend to multiply very rapidly under favorable conditions, forming colonies of millions or even billions of organisms within a space as small as a drop of water.
Our solution concept consists of two parts: a van that travels within college campuses to supply students with vaccines and a stand that provides students with fliers containing information on where the van will be and waivers for free vaccines at their nearest health clinic.
To create our solution, we did research on various infectious diseases prevalent in the metro-Atlanta area and chose the influenza virus to work on. We then interviewed a variety of citizens in our area about the issue and what was required to abate its effects. Our research concluded that many people do not receive the vaccine because they cannot afford it or they do not have time to receive it. Therefore, we realized that our solution needed to bring the vaccine to the people, and somehow provide it at a reduced price or for free. We then engaged in thinking processes to understand what our users needed. We brainstormed a variety of solutions, then chose the best ones to prototype and improve upon. In the prototyping process, we created multiple, rapidly done prototypes to make swift improvements and to reach the best possible iteration in the shortest amount of time.
To help solve our problem, we conducted various interviews to understand who is being affected by the issue and the problems they face because of it. We wanted to solve the following question: The interviews assisted us in making a better solution for college students in the metro Atlanta area.
The first person interviewed was Mr. Alonzo Patterson, a teacher within the SMASH program who lives in the inner city. He informed us on how the influenza virus affected his community and what we needed to help remedy its effects. He told us personal things about his life that helped us come to a solution for our problem. As an example, Mr. patterson informed us about his experience with influenza and how it affected his life. He missed several school days because he had a severe outbreak of influenza, and it negatively affected his education. This experience could have been prevented if he received the flu vaccine. This helped us come to the conclusion that we need to get the vaccine and information about influenza to inner city communities. So we can prevent or fight the flu.
The second person interviewed was Marcus Branch, a recent graduate of Morehouse college that happens to work in the SMASH program. His interview gave us a college student perspective of the flu season. We found out that his last vaccine shot was when he was a freshman in college. His excuse was that he “doesn’t have time to get the flu shot often”. This shows how college students sometimes neglect the responsibility of healthcare because of insufficient time. This interview was a major key to help us come up with our prototype, and how to answers all of the needs of a typical college student.
Our third and final interview was Dr. Tara Turner, the head instructor of SMASH Morehouse. She provided us with a great teacher perspective of the flu and how it affects the students in class. Due to influenza, a college student could miss up to eight days of class and could have potential to spread it to other students. The whole process could possibly be prevented by one flu shot a year. If we can find a way to give college students an easy way to access the vaccine, the influenza virus will decrease in college areas.
In conclusion, we used the interviews to come up with a prototype that will help everyone's perspective. The college students, the teachers, and the community will be impacted in major ways by our solution. It will help inform about and prevent influenza in colleges across metro-Atlanta.
Vaccines are the first line of defense against the flu virus, but most people aren’t aware of the differences between the types of vaccine or where to receive it affordably.
For a while, flu vaccines were designed to protect against three different flu viruses which would be the trivalent vaccine. This included an influenza A H1N1 virus, an influenza A H3N2 virus and one B virus. Later comes a new strand of a B virus. This meant the vaccine did not protect against the group of B viruses not included in the vaccine. Adding another B virus to the vaccine aims to give broader protection against circulating flu viruses. This is where the quadrivalent vaccine came from. Quadrivalent flu vaccines protect against four strains of influenza viruses. The quadrivalent vaccine now targets a fourth strain, which is a second type B strain, in addition to the other three strains.
Recieve it today:
Who are we?
We are a group of 10th grade students that participate in a summer STEM program called SMASH. SMASH is a STEM-intensive college preparatory program for underrepresented high school students of color.
What do we do?Our different roles: