By JANIE HARRIS
Sports Editor, Interim EIC
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or CDC, recently released that at least 43 states, including Georgia, are seeing widespread influenza, or flu, activity. In Georgia, there have been 13 flu related deaths according to the Georgia Department of Public Health. Overall, the spread of the virus is considered epidemic.
The CDC describes influenza as a respiratory virus that can cause mild to severe illness. Serious complications of the flu can lead to hospitalization or even death.
Dean of school and professor of nursing Linda Scott said, “The flu does kill people, and it kills young people.”
Scott explained that many younger people do not understand that they are at risk, too. But many also don’t know that the flu can transform into other illnesses as well. According to Scott, pneumonia is one of the more common illnesses the flu leads to.
But trying to treat the flu remains difficult. Because it is a virus, antibiotics do not treat the flu.
“With viruses, you pretty much have to treat them symptomatically and let them run their course,” said Scott.
But why are there so many people with the flu this year? The CDC reported that fewer than half of all Americans received the vaccine.
Scott explained that most of the flu patients she has seen at a clinic where she works received the flu vaccine but still got the flu. However, she stressed that they did not get the flu from the vaccine. The vaccine involves a dead virus, so it is basically impossible to get in the flu from the vaccine. You, however, might experience symptoms, like feeling achy, from the serum the dead virus comes in.
The virus mutated this year, and because the CDC has to prepare the vaccine a year in advance by what they think they flu will be like, the vaccine just isn’t a good match this flu season according to Scott.
Scott said, “It is still better to have a flu shot because it gives you some immunity. But it is not as good as it could be this year.”
The CDC pushes for everyone to get the vaccine each flu season, but why would it be important for a college student to watch out for the flu?
Influenza is easily spread. Scott said that it is usually transferred by hands. Your hands are exposed, and then when you touch your face, the virus transfers into your mouth, eyes or nose. “Think how many times a day you touch your face,” Scott said.
On top of that, living in a residence hall adds to a student’s risk of catching the flu. Scott said students should be monitoring themselves and their peers for flu symptoms. Symptoms of the flu include fever, cough, sore throat, runny/stuffy nose, muscle/ body aches, fatigue and/ or headaches.
“One of the reasons we want students to know about it is to have a real awareness of it. Because if you go see a medical professional within 48 hours of the first symptom, you can get started on something like Tamiflu,” said Scott. Tamiflu and drugs like it treat these symptoms and help shorten the duration of the illness.
However, telling the difference between a cold and the beginning stages of the flu is difficult. Scott explained that there are differences. With a cold, you are more likely to be sneezing than if you had the flu. A cold may also lack the flu’s largest symptom—a fever. Getting a flu test is the only way to really know though, and Scott explained that the test is fairly simple. All a nurse has to do is swab a patient’s nose and send it off for testing to find out if the patient has the flu or not.
Scott stressed the importance of getting tested at the first signs of the flu. She said that during the first few symptoms is when a patient is most contagious. And prevention is key. Proper hand washing can easily stop the spread of the flu along with those who are ill staying away from their peers and not going to class.
“It is not like you get a couple days off to miss classes. You feel like you are going to die. You feel so bad,” said Scott.
And we are not in the clear yet. January is only the half way point of flu season, and the CDC stated that February is when influenza commonly peaks. The CDC said, “It’s fairly common for there to be two waves of flu activity during a season, the second wave is often caused by an influenza B virus.”
We may have only seen the first wave.