By Natasha Ramaswamy |
Co-Editor in Chief
According to the CDC, it is estimated that “since 2010, [the] flu has resulted in between 140,000 and 710,000 hospitalizations each year”. However, for weeks now, it has been hard to turn around without hearing about how this year’s flu season has been the worst of recent years by far. To date, 53 pediatric influenza-related deaths have been reported already for the 2017-2018 season, and unfortunately, that number is likely to go up in weeks to come.
In actuality, the reason for the unusually hazardous nature of this season’s flu is that each year, there are usually a few different strains of the virus that circulate throughout the public. However, this year, the predominant strain is called Influenza A-H3N2. While all flu virus strains frequently undergo genetic changes, this particular strain happens to reform most frequently. Thus, according to the CDC, “that means that between the time when the composition of the flu vaccine is recommended, and the flu vaccine is delivered, H3N2 viruses are more likely than H1N1 or influenza B viruses to have changed in ways that could impact how well the flu vaccine works”.
Even so, as stated by the Augusta University Housing department in an email sent to inform students about the severity of the flu outbreak within the community, “the first and most important step in preventing flu is to get a flu vaccination each year”. This is because firstly, even if the flu vaccine does not protect individuals from all strains of the flu, it still greatly reduces the number of strains that they will be susceptible to. In addition, should a vaccinated patient still contact the flu, there is a high chance that the antibodies produced against the vaccine-covered strain will lessen the symptoms and duration of illness. Finally, when a large group of people gets vaccinated, it creates something called herd immunity, a phenomenon whereby since most of the people in an area are vaccinated, they protect the few who could not receive the vaccine by default. For best coverage, the CDC recommends only receiving the injectable flu vaccine over the nasal spray.
Within Georgia, the flu severity index has peaked at maximum, indicating that the epidemic is still going strong. Thus, the department of health urges everyone to receive their vaccine, even if they have not done so yet. In addition, Augusta University housing encourages students to “Take precautions to limit the spread of flu to others by practicing good hygiene, washing hands frequently, using sanitizers, not sharing food or drinks, and avoiding close contact with other people as much as possible”.
For any students who develop flu-like symptoms, contact Augusta University Student Health at 706-721-3448 or visit them on the Health Science campus in Pavilion II (1465 Laney-Walker Blvd.).
Contact Natasha Ramaswamy at NRAMASWAMY@augusta.edu