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PORTAGE COUNTY -- Schools, businesses and area health departments are reaching out to encourage vaccination and keep those already ill from influenza at home.

The first week of a new semester brings students back to Kent State University from all over the country. And this January, it's the germs coming back, too, that leave a campus concerned.

"The first week is always hectic. A lot of kids around, and like the bookstore's filled, a lot of kids, touching everything," said senior student Frank Schaefer.

"If we're going to have an influenza case, we're going to have more rapid spread in the community," said Kent State's Chief University Physician Dr. Angela DeJulius.

After the death of a Wright State University student, colleges are watching for an influenza epidemic that could spread quickly through residence halls and communal spaces.

"We tend to think of our college students as lower risk, but because of the other factors that we talked about, they all live here so close together, you know we're going to do everything we can to protect them," said DeJulius.

At Kent State, that means a "get out of class free card," encouraging ill students to stay home.

"Do everything you can to prevent getting the flu and to prevent giving it to others. So washing your hands, covering your coughs, staying home if you're ill, getting a flu shot if you have not done so yet," she said.

Students say it's not that simple when you're fighting to stay ahead.

"Me, personally, if I was sick, I'd still probably end up going to class, just to get that first start," said Jason Watkins, a junior.

"Even though I got the flu shot, it's one of those things I want to be on the lookout for, because I don't want to get sick," Melanie Nesteruk, a freshman.

Vaccines are still available on campus or at Portage County Health Department every Wednesday in January from 8 a.m. to noon.

It's located in the Nursing Clinic along 449 South Meridian Street in Ravenna.

There's also a special clinic at the Kent City Health Department on Depeyster StreetWednesday, Jan. 16, from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. Call 330-296-9919 for more information.

Medina County Health Department is offering pediatric vaccines Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. until noon, and 1 p.m. until 4 p.m.

Adult vaccines are not available. You can get more information byclicking here.

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