Empty desks and a symphony of sniffles throughout classrooms at Cal State Long Beach have signaled the severity of this year’s influenza epidemic.
Students may want to think twice before sharing eating utensils or skipping out on washing their hands as this year’s flu season has already claimed the lives of 63 people, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Numbers this high have not been recorded since the outbreak of swine flu back in 2010, but soon it looks to be top competitor for the worst flu season in a century.
This illness isn’t just striking adolescents and senior citizens; it’s largely affecting college students as well.
“It started with a little cough and then the next day I had no voice,” said Sophia Lepore, Journalism major at CSULB. “[It felt like] my throat was on fire and I couldn’t hold anything down food-wise. My body felt like it got hit by a train and then the 104 degree temperature made me realize it was the flu.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control’s FAQ section, seasonal flu activity, while unpredictable, the virus usually runs from October through May.
This dominant strain of influenza, H3N2, was identified 50 years ago and is prone to rapid mutation, allowing it to dodge the body’s defenses. This leaves creating a vaccination much trickier than years in the past.
“Vaccines are only ever 60 percent effective,” said Dr. Kimberly Fodran, the Chief of Medical Staff at the Cal State Long Beach Student Health Center. “And viruses can rapidly mutate.”
This goes to explain why so many people are getting hit with this year’s flu.
“We typically see 2-3 patients per shift dealing, with the flu,” said alumnus Kaylie Foudy, an EMT at medical transportation company Liberty Ambulance. “Most of them were adults, constantly complaining about feeling weak, nauseous and experiencing chills.”
The Environmental Health and Safety department on campus recently released a press release stating that if you experience some or all of these symptoms, you may have the flu:
- Fever or chills
- Sore throat
- Runny or stuffy nose
- Muscle or body aches
- Vomiting and diarrhea
According to health officials, the only way to avoid contracting the flu this year is by taking preventative measures to keep your body as healthy as possible.
“When I went to class I was sweating profusely and it wasn’t even hot out,” said Regan Wolfley, third year human development major. “The girl who sat next to me [in class] told me I looked really pale. I didn’t feel like myself at all, so I went to the Student Health Center on campus. They gave me a Z-Pak and a mask and were very informative about the importance of sanitation while being on campus.”
The Travel Channel recently released an article stating 10 different ways to help ward off the flu this season, regardless if you’re on the go or travelling to work and back.
A few of these tips include: get enough sleep, boost your immunity in any way you can — Vitamin C is key — and stay hydrated.
“We always address flu issues every year [with] health promotion and health education,” said Heidi Girling, health and resource coordinator for the Student Health Services on campus. “During October and November of fall 2017, we conducted four outreach flu vaccine events and gave out 1,641 free shots to students, staff, faculty and the community,” Girling said.
These flu vaccinations are still available at Student Health Services on campus for $5 each.