Flu Season


A nurse checking the blood pressure of a patient with flu symptoms. Photo credit to Latimes.com.

Sophie West, Editor

This time of year, it seems as though germs are lurking around every corner. Runny noses are given suspicious glances, and a single sneeze strikes fear in the hearts of everyone present. While you may be scorned for carrying around a bottle of hand sanitizer, you are right to be concerned.

The 2017-2018 flu season has been particularly unpleasant, and may be at its peak. At present, the hospitalization rate is the highest the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has ever recorded. 9.8 percent of current deaths are being caused by influenza and pneumonia, and at least 84 children have died from the flu (Nytimes.com). CDC director Anne Schuchat warned that “influenza activity is still on the rise overall,” and “[w]e could potentially see several more weeks of increased threat” (Inverse.com).

What makes this year’s flu season more deadly than past seasons? Typically, flu seasons are dominated by Type A strains H1N1 and H3N2, and Type B strains Victoria and Yamagata. H3N2 is recognized as the most dangerous of the four seasonal flu strains, and unfortunately, 72 percent of all genetically sequenced samples have been H3N2. The effectiveness of the flu shots varies across the age groups, but averages out to be about 25 percent effective against the H3N2 strain. While the flu shots may not be a surefire way to completely ward off the flu, experts say it may save you from dying of it (Nytimes.com).

Aside from the flu shots, there are many other ways to reduce your chances of getting the flu. The flu is often spread by tiny droplets released when infected people sneeze, cough, or speak. These droplets can be inhaled by individuals nearby. Less often, one may catch the flu by rubbing their eyes or face after touching a surface contaminated by the flu virus. As a general rule, one should wash their hands often and avoid touching their face unless their hands have just been cleaned. When soap and water are not available, an alcohol-based hand sanitizer is just as effective. Additionally, getting enough sleep and eating a healthy diet will strengthen one’s immune system (Latimes.com).

Typical flu symptoms include fever, chills, sore throat, cough, runny nose, fatigue, and aches. Nausea is also a common symptom, although it is more common in children than adults. Obviously, covering coughs and sneezes is an easy way to halt the spread of germs. That being said, in moments of laziness many people will cough directly into the open air, increasing the spread of germs. In the event that you catch the flu, avoid close contact with others and stay home whenever possible. This will keep the flu from spreading to those around you (Latimes.com). While your act of staying home may seem like just another droplet in the flu-ridden air, every bit helps, and one can’t be too careful.