H1N1 strikes again

Saige Heyer

The dominant strain of influenza this flu season is the 2009 H1N1 strain. It took a toll almost five years ago and has taken the life of a young Iowan boy already this season. Details, such as the age, name and location, of the boy have not been released yet.

Dr. Patricia Quinlisk, medical director at the Iowa Department of Public Health, said the 2009 H1N1 pandemic hit hard because it was a new strain of influenza that people hadn’t built up an immunity to yet.

As far as why H1N1 is hitting again, Scallon believes it’s because a majority of the people weren’t exposed to it before so it’s still circulating and there can be some different variations on it.

“This is the classic, typical time, so it’s doing what it usually does,” Scallon said.

Iowa does not keep track of flu-related deaths until after the end of the flu season. This is when death certificates have been received. Quinlisk said this is because it’s hard to say if a person who was hospitalized has died from H1N1 or pneumonia.

The Iowa Influenza Surveillance Network publishes a weekly activity report, which can be found on the Iowa Department of Public Health’s website. Data is collected through surveying Iowa sentinel hospitals instead of having each individual hospital report cases of H1N1.

There have only been a few positive cases of H1N1 at Iowa State this year, said Dr. Cosette Scallon at Thielen Student Health Center. She said that most years they’ve noticed the flu shows up in January when all the students are coming back.

“A lot of people got shots in 2009 for the H1N1, but it wears out of your system—unfortunately. And that’s the whole reason everybody has to get a shot every year is because the immunity kind of wanes off,” Scallon said.

Keep Away

Precautions that may be taken to ward off the flu include getting the vaccine, washing hands frequently and keeping your hands away from the eyes, nose and mouth, cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched areas, avoiding close contact with an infected person, coughing and sneezing into your sleeve or a tissue and taking care of your immune system according to the Thielen Student Health Center website.

Although it may be difficult for the typical college student, taking care of his or her immune system includes getting plenty of rest, keeping on a healthy diet, drinking plenty of fluids and avoiding as much stress as possible.

The vaccines that are available include the dominant strain of flu this season. Thielen Student Health Center no longer has the nasal mist form of the vaccine available, but they do have the injectable form, which costs $25. The mist will be available at Thielen again in the fall.

Students can walk in to the student health center any time during normal business hours to get vaccinated for the flu.

“I tell people they should vote – their civic duty is to vote,” Scallon said. “Their civic duty is to get their flu shot.”

What are the symptoms?

According to the Centers for Disease Control, symptoms of the flu are fever, lethargy, lack of appetite, coughing, runny nose, sore throat, eye irritation, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.

These symptoms will typically last one to two weeks. Flu.gov says adults can infect others from one day before to five to seven days after symptoms appear. The people that are most at risk include younger children, older adults and people with chronic health conditions.

What should you do?

If you happen to come down with the flu, it is important that you stay home so you don’t infect others. It is best to stay home until the symptoms are gone and you haven’t had a fever for at least 24 hours. You must also get plenty of rest, eat a healthy diet and get plenty of fluids. 

“What I tell people—the best equivalent for if you’re sweating, working out or fevers—is to have one water and one Gatorade going at the same time,” Scallon said. “And so you can take a sip of one, take a sip of the other and that’s going to give you kind of the right balance of electrolytes and fluid that you need.”

Scallon said if you are noticing extreme flu symptoms they prefer students call a nurse before coming in to the doctor. She said most of they time staying home is the best way to avoid infecting anyone else.

“We kind of want people to stay home. We don’t really want them to go to the doctor, we want them to call the nurse and talk over the phone [so the nurse can] assess how sick they really are,” Scallon said. This is because they don’t treat young, healthy people that aren’t having any complications. She said most people will get better on their own if they stay home, away from others, rest and drink fluids, even though they will feel lousy for a little while.

“We’re not going to give [Tamiflu] to 99% of people that come here, so that’s we don’t really want people to come here,” Scallon said in regards to treating people with H1N1.