Although the 2018 flu epidemic rates have been unprecedented, Saint Vincent’s Wellness Center feels well prepared.
Gretchen Flock, director of the Saint Vincent College Wellness Center, stated that she has observed eight students with influenza symptoms so far.
“Influenza is spread by a virus, and this year’s flu vaccine was not as effective,” Flock said. “Viruses will differ in strength and symptoms. I’m sure that the CDC epidemiologists are tracking this virus, to improve our treatments and response.”
Flock also gave advice on how to prevent infection and what to do if one is infected.
“The best way to avoid it is to wash your hands frequently, use an alcohol-based sanitizer, do not share drinking glasses and limit close contact with other persons,” Flock said. “We instruct [infected students] to get rest, drink lots of fluids, take ibuprofen or acetaminophen to reduce their fever and distance themselves from others to prevent the spread of disease. We encourage students to stay home from class until fever-free for 24 hours without analgesics, and if you are able to go home, please do so. If not, wipe down all hard surfaces in your room with an alcohol-based solution. The Wellness Center does have individual hand sanitizers available.”
Sarah Haenel, senior English major, began to experience flu symptoms Jan. 13, the Saturday before spring semester classes began.
“It started with a mildly itchy throat that provoked a cough and then the next morning I woke up without a voice and a high fever,” Haenel said. “I was quite surprised because I haven’t had the flu in a really long time and invest a lot into my health and fitness so getting sick really isn’t typical for me.
According to Haenel, the infection then worsened.
“On Sunday I actually had to go to the ER because my fever was so high at 104.1°. I had the chills, sweats, a relentless cough and nausea that had me throwing up several times. At the ER, the doctor I saw advised me not to return to school or work for a few days to help cut back on the epidemic, so I ended up missing my last two first days of class ever. My voice was pretty much non-existent so returning to class on Wednesday was interesting, but I’m glad it’s over,” Haenel said.
The end of 2017 and the beginning of 2018 have been marked by severe cases of the current strain of flu, the H3N2 virus.
According to the Washington Post, “this year’s flu season is already the most widespread on record.”
Time Magazine reports the CDC’s findings that the H3N2 virus causes more severe effects than other flu strains in addition to being more impervious to the flu vaccine.
Symptoms can vary, but often include sore throat, chills, fever, body aches and congestion that can last from a week to ten days.
The Pennsylvania Department of Health reports the number of flu cases in Allegheny County to total 1,842 with 658 cases in Westmoreland County. Widespread flu activity has been reported in every state, except Hawaii. The New York Times states that 6.6% of Americans seeking medical care currently have flu symptoms with the number still rising. The flu is also “widespread across the Midwest and South, and intensity is still increasing in the Northeast, including in New York City.”
In addition, the infection rates have officially surpassed those of the 2014-15 season.
Time Magazine also reports that “a total of [thirty] children have died from influenza this flu season, including [ten] new cases reported to the CDC as of [January] 13.”
The total number of adults is unknown, although individual cases have been reported; Kyler Baughman, a 21-year-old Latrobe native, passed away Dec. 28, 2017 from septic shock after contracting the virus a couple days before Christmas, according to TribLive.
Amesh Adalja, a Pittsburgh-based infectious disease expert for the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, said that “in ordinary influenza seasons, it’s rare for a 21-year-old to succumb, but it does occur.”
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