Influenza packs a punch each year in the United States, but some years are much worse than others. With an estimated number of 80,000 flu related deaths, 2017 happened to be one of those years.
It is that time of year again: flu season.
Flu season in the United States begins each year on Oct. 1 and usually spans until the end of March. Each year in the United States, there is an outbreak of influenza. Last year, simply going by the amount of deaths and hospitalizations, was one of the most impactful influenza seasons since the Swine Flu epidemic in 2009.
According to the CDC, approximately nine percent of the United States population was hospitalized with the flu and there were 185 flu related children’s deaths, both statistics totaling more than any recent years flu activity.
But what made this flu so bad?
According to Sandra Livingston, a certified registered nurse practitioner (CRNP) and interim director at Winslow Health Center, the flu vaccine did not provide the coverage that health officials were hoping.
“When they make the serum, it’s just they guess what flu viruses will be circulating throughout the world, not just the United States, not just Crawford County and they just guessed wrong,” Livingston said.
This lack of coverage by the vaccine caused the number of flu related illnesses and deaths to rise.
However, the flu season looked different on Allegheny’s campus and in Meadville as a whole than what the media was portraying the flu season to look like.
“I will say last year, on campus, our influenza that came to our office, it was not a bad year,” Livingston said. “Last year, overall, visits to the health center for influenza was much lighter.”
Livingston mentioned she and her faculty kept waiting for flu season to strike campus, but it never did. The Winslow staff members were grateful.
However, with all of the information health officials have about last flu season, they still cannot fully predict what the flu will look like this year. Health officials do their best by predicting what the flu will look like, based on what is happening in other places of the world. Usually the estimates for the United States are based heavily on what the season is showing in the southern hemisphere. However, this is not a great predictor of what is going to happen, as the flu virus can mutate and change very easily. The best steps a person can take to protect themselves from the flu is know the signs and symptoms and the steps to take to prevent the flu from infecting your body.
Livingston suggests the best ways of protecting the body from the flu virus is by practicing good hygiene, such as coughing and sneezing into your elbow, washing your hands and by getting the flu shot.
The flu vaccine plays a very important role in the protection of the body from the influenza virus. Although one of the major issues last season was the ineffectiveness of the flu vaccine, the shot still kept many people out of the hospital. In fact, according to the CDC, about 80 percent of the children that died from the flu last year were not vaccinated. No matter the effectiveness of the flu vaccine, it still can keep you out of the hospital and prepare your body for the virus.
Winslow health center offers flu vaccination clinics to all student and faculty. The health center also offers appointments in the clinic to get your flu shot.
“Last year we sold all of our flu shots, as predicted this year,” Livingston said.
Livingston said some of the symptoms that you should be looking out for is the high fever, sore throat, nasal congestion, body aches and chills.
Even by taking steps to prevent the flu, getting sick is still a possibility, especially with being on such a small campus, Livingston said.
Livingston suggests visiting the health center website along with the CDC and Pennsylvania Department of Health websites for some suggestions on how to fight the flu.
“You manage your fever with Advil and Tylenol, you should have a thermometer in your room,” Livingston said.“You need to stay hydrated and monitor your symptoms and self-isolate until your fever is gone.”
Livingston also said people should get up and walk around as much as possible, so the lungs can expand and contract as much as possible to prevent other illnesses like pneumonia.
Finally, Livingston recommends students call and set up an appointment in the health center should they start to feel sick, as there are high amounts of appointments and less amount of times for walk-ins.