2018: The Flu Epidemic – United States Faces Deadliest Season

Photo Courtesy of Tribune News Service
Downey Regional Medical Center RN Connie Meinke administers the flu vaccine to fellow employee Brian Virk on January 17, 2013. Like many hospitals across the U.S., the Downey, California, facility is preparing for the flu onslaught. The hospital is asking all of their employees to be vaccinated.

Miranda Fritts
Staff Writer

As of Feb. 17, nearly 21,279 people across the United States have been hospitalized by the flu.

The flu is a contagious virus that attacks the upper and lower respiratory systems. It is typically contracted through the air, and is most likely spread when people with the virus cough it into the air.

The flu is highly contagious virus because it can be spread at least two to three days before symptoms occur.

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), this flu season reached its peak during the early weeks of February.

While many might assume that means the flu season has passed, the season has the possibility of lasting well into the month of May.

Federal Health officials say this season has been considered one of the worst the US has ever had, equaling infection rates of the swine flu pandemic in 2009; the CDC reports that an alarming number of adults, children and the elderly are passing away by the flu and pneumonia this season. Health officials say that it can be quite concerning when receiving a positive flu test from the doctor and this season more than any other, but should be taken seriously.

The CDC has been confirmed that at least 97 people have died from flu-related illnesses in the U.S. this season.

According to the CDC’s current data, the fourth week of January had both the flu and pneumonia accounting for 9.8% of deaths that week. This percentage is at least two and half percent more than the percentage it takes to be considered an epidemic, which is 7.3%.

There are many different flu viruses, which are constantly changing. The four common strains of flu, stemming from type-A and type-B, are reviewed each year to update vaccines.

The strain considered most dangerous, however, has been found in 71% of positive flu tests this season.

The CDC’s Weekly U.S. Influenza Surveillance Report stated that influenza A(H3) has been the most frequently identified virus subtype reported by public health laboratories.

Cameron Student Wellness Center Director Jill Melrose said the Wellness Center saw roughly 75 to 80 students for flu-like symptoms during their busiest time of the year.

“The peak of the flu season for us was during the last few weeks of January and the first two weeks of February,” she said. “It has slowed down considerably since then.”

The Student Wellness Center prepares for flu season by holding their annual two-day flu shot clinic for all students, staff and faculty every October. They keep flu tests and over-the-counter pain and fever reducing medication available throughout the rest of the season.

For any concerned students and employees, Melrose said not to worry about flu-related deaths in Oklahoma, as the deaths are not common.

“If you are worried that you are getting sicker from the flu and have already come in to see us, just come in again,” she said. “Our medical provider will monitor your flu symptoms.”

To prevent the spread of the virus, Melrose said she encourages all students, staff and faculty to wash their hands frequently and keep them away from the face.

“We are here to take care of students and to keep you healthy so you can succeed at Cameron,” she said.

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