Photo by: Henoc Kivuye
Flu season is among us again, and so far it looks like this season's strain of the virus has everyone worried. According to a recent report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention this flu season has reached epidemic proportions.
“I don’t always get a flu shot despite the constant advertisements of pharmacies and health clinics to do so,” Shannon Joyner, a senior biology major, said. “I try my best to remain healthy through diet and exercise, which also helps the immune system to remain strong and fight off infection. There isn’t anything wrong with getting the vaccines, but I do think that your body can fight it off naturally.”
According to the CDC, there are 29 states that have a high range of Influenza-Like Illness activity, with Oklahoma and Texas being among the highest. In Oklahoma alone there have been 100 new hospitalizations and/or deaths reported between Jan. 9 and Jan. 15. There have been 484 cumulative hospitalizations and 8 deaths since Sept. 30. Locally, hospitals such as OU Medical Center in Edmond are seeing a huge increase in patients.
“The hospital is at capacity currently; we are completely full,” Dr. Shane Hull, a Pulmonologist with OU Medical Center in Edmond, said. “My office is completely full not only of people with the flu, but there are a lot of people with flu-like illness.”
The strains that are getting people sick according to health officials are both the H3N2 virus and the H1N1 virus, which is the same strain that caused the swine flu epidemic in 2009.
“The flu vaccine is a trivalent vaccine, meaning it contains versions of H1N1, H3N2, both of which are Influenza type A viruses, and a third strain from type B Influenza,” Aaron Reagan, a senior biology major, said. “By getting a flu vaccine, it activates your immune system to make antibodies so that when the real flu infects you, your immune system can be prepared to fight it off, so that you feel very little, if any flu like symptoms. More importantly it reduces the amount of virus being shed, meaning everyone else around you is much less likely to get sick.”
The vaccine works better the more people receive it.
“If everyone were to get the flu vaccine, it would greatly reduce the amount of hospitalizations and sicknesses seen,” Reagan said. “Hopefully in the near future there will be a vaccine you get one time in your life, which can protect you from all Influenza cases. Until then, it should be the responsibility of every individual to get an annual vaccine to protect themselves and prevent the spread.”
Not only do the strains of Influenza this season have everyone a little bit on edge, but the fact that there have been reports of a shortage of both the flu vaccine and Tamiflu has everyone very anxious as well. Manufacturers have distributed 128 million doses of the flu vaccine
There are different ways to fight the flu. Aside from the flu vaccine shot, there are other products like Tamiflu, a neuraminidase inhibitor, which helps prevent the spread, and typically gets rid of flu-like symptoms on average one day less than if it were not taken. FluMist, a nasal spray of a weakened version of the virus, is typically very beneficial but cannot be given to children under two or the elderly, which are the two biggest groups of people the flu kills every year.
Other resources include Amantadine and Rimantadine, which also help to prevent the spread of the virus. There are currently other methods in research labs, which are suggesting to be very beneficial in preventing the flu, but they are not approved by the Food and Drug Administration.
While there may be a shortage of some vaccines, and this flu season looks like it is going to play out to be a brutal season, there are some basic steps to take in order to maintain health and prevent spread.
–Get the Flu Vaccine.
–Wash your hands and use sanitizer regularly.
–Use antibacterial wipes.
–Exercise as it can help boost your immune system.
–Get plenty of sleep.