Feb 5, 2018 | Atlanta, GA
“It has been a tough flu season so far this year,” explained Dr. Dan Jernigan, Director of the Flu Division in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Disease. “Most people with [flu] are being infected with the H3N2 influenza virus.” Seasons where H3N2 is the main strain causing illness tend to make more people sick and cause more severe illness. Stamps Health Services, like clinics all across Georgia, has seen more cases of flu than it usually does at this time.
“The 2015 and 2016 flu seasons were relatively light here at Stamps Health Services”, stated Dr. Benjamin Holton, Senior Director for Stamps. “In 2015, during our peak week, we saw 19 students with flu-like symptoms. In 2016 it was 10 students. We thought last year was a bad year, when we saw 46 students in our peak week. But this year is much worse. The first week of spring semester, when students returned to campus, Stamps Health Services saw 29 cases of influenza-like illness. Cases continued to rise and in the last full week of January, they saw 65 cases,” Dr. Holton continued. “We are already 50% over our peak last year and we are not sure we have peaked yet. The number of students with flu like symptoms seen at Stamps Health Services is only the tip of the iceberg; many more students who are sick manage their symptoms without coming in.”
Flu season tends to last between 16 and 20 weeks, according to the CDC. Based on the current flu pattern across the country that began after the holidays, we are only about halfway through the 2017/2018 flu season. If you have not gotten your flu shot yet, there is still time. Stamps Health Services has a number of options for you to get your flu vaccine. Students can attend a flu shot clinic at Stamps Health Services from 9am to 3pm on Wednesday, February 7th or the Campus Services Carnivale from 10am to 1pm on Tuesday, February 13th in the Student Center. Students can also make an appointment in the clinic or during their scheduled visit to get the vaccine. Additionally, students, faculty, and staff are able to walk-in and get their vaccine through the Stamps Health Services Pharmacy on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
You may have heard that this season’s flu vaccine does not work. While it’s true that this year’s flu vaccine is not considered a “good match,” the antibodies your body makes in response to vaccine can sometimes provide protection against different, related viruses. This means that if you got the flu shot, you will usually not feel as sick and may be able to return to your normal work and school schedule earlier than you would be able to without it.
Everyone 6 months of age and older should get a flu vaccine every season. Not only does it protect you, but it also helps protect those around you, including those who are more vulnerable to serious flu illness. Contrary to rumors, the flu vaccine cannot give you the flu. Some of the side effects of the vaccine, like soreness, low grade fever, and aches, are common and might make you think you are sick even though you are not.
In addition to getting your flu vaccine, there are many simple steps you can take to help prevent the spread of flu:
- Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze and always throw away the tissue in the trash after you use it.
- Wash hands thoroughly with soap and water for 20 seconds, whether you are sick or not. Alcohol-based hand sanitizers can be used in addition to hand washing, but they are not a substitute for washing with soap and water.
- Do not share drinks, eating utensils, or drink containers.
- Clean and disinfect surfaces and objects that may be contaminated with germs like the flu.
If you do get sick, there are a lot things you can do. “The most important thing you can do is limit movement around campus to prevent the spread to others, which means staying out of class,” explained Dr. Holton. “In fact, if you do get sick and can leave campus and stay with your family at home that is even better.” People who get the flu should stay in their room or at home until their fever has been gone for at least 24 hours without the help of fever-reducing medications like acetaminophen or ibuprofen. “You should also get plenty of rest and keep hydrated,” continued Dr. Holton. For more information about this flu season, where to get your flu shot, and more, go to our website: health.gatech.edu/flu.