Flu season sweeps country


This week, eligible Iowa State faculty and staff have the opportunity to receive free flu shots through ISU WellBeing and Occupational Medicine, who sponsor the flu shot clinic for the university.

Katelynn Mccollough

The flu season is in full swing as the Center of Disease Control reports that 47 states have confirmed widespread cases of influenza activity, with 3,710 influenza hospitalizations since Oct. 1.

“Last year was a fairly mild year for flu; this year is more extreme,” said Steve Sullivan, spokesperson for Mary Greeley Medical Center. “We’re definitely seeing more people with flu symptoms and more people being admitted to the hospital with the flu.”

Sullivan said 18 people were admitted to Mary Greeley with the flu in December and eight people have been admitted so far in January.

Students, faculty and staff need to keep a close watch for any hint of flu symptoms. The influenza virus attacks the respiratory system, which is your nose, throat and lungs, and is a contagious viral infection.

“Flu-like symptoms would include a fever of 100 degrees or more, persistent cough or a sore throat,” Sullivan explained.

The majority of flu cases this year have been Influenza A and B viruses, both of which are covered by vaccines.

“We are currently providing the influenza vaccine,” said Dr. Scott Meyer, M.D. at Thielen Student Health Center. “There’s ongoing demand for [the flu vaccine], and we are still able to meet that demand. We are encouraging people, if they haven’t had the immunization yet, to come in and get that.”

Thielen reported that more than 100 flu vaccines given over the course of three business days as of Jan. 15.

Sullivan said that he had not heard of any flu vaccine shortages in the “immediate Ames area.”

Thielen, Mary Greeley and Homeward Public Health on Duff Avenue all still offer the influenza vaccine injection. The FluMist intranasal vaccine is still available at Thielen but no longer available at Homeward.

The CDC reported on Jan. 11 that this season’s flu vaccine reduces the chance of contracting the flu by up to 60 percent.

“Maintain your cleanliness when you’re in contact with other people and with surfaces that they might have been touching,” Meyer said, who explained that the flu virus can stay active on surfaces for a short time.

“We all touch our faces eventually. … That is really how you spread that contact,” Dr. Meyer said.

Washing your hands frequently, covering your mouth and nose when you cough and sneeze, and staying home when you are sick can also aid in keeping the spread of the flu low.

“Young people are probably going to have a stronger immune system,” Sullivan said, “but they still need to take the same precautions.”

Meyer explained that the use of Tamilflu, which is used to help treat and prevent the flu, is not recommended for everyone, but only for those that have “chronic underlying medical problems that can be worsened by having influenza.”

Meyer and Sullivan explained that not all cases of the flu will require a visit to the doctor. Students should visit the doctor if symptoms continue to worsen or do not improve with the use of over-the-counter medications.

The severity of the flu outbreaks varies from season to season.