A state of public health emergency has been declared in New York State and more states have followed suit. Influenza, or the common flu, has abounded in regions across the United States. Last year, New York alone experienced approximately 4,400 positive influenza cases. This year, that number has already exceeded 20,000.
Granted, the statistics are for New York State. But New York can be seen as a scale model of the United States as a whole, and as a representative of influenza in Virginia.
The Virginia Department of Health (VDH) monitors influenza activity during the “flu season,” a time period extending from October through May. The VDH uses laboratory reports, outbreak records, and data from emergency room hospital visits to determine the prevalence of the influenza virus. The VDH makes it clear that they cannot record every case of the flu in the state. They do, however, monitor the reports on a week to week basis in five health planning regions staggered throughout Virginia.
EMU complies with the trend of influenza across Virginia; this year’s flu cases have exceeded that of last year’s. Margaret Upton, the department head and director of Campus Health Services at EMU, concurs with the information provided by the VDH.
“I would say that we are consistent with the [Center of Disease Control and Prevention]’s incidence of influenza this year.”
But Upton also shared some new light on many recent articles forecasting our inevitable doom at the hands of the virus.
“Last year, [the influenza] was very mild, but this year is more typical of a normal influenza year. The one difference is that influenza showed up earlier this year than is typical.”
Nonetheless, it is important to prevent the onset of a campus wide epidemic. The influenza vaccine, or the flu shot, is about 60 percent effective in preventing the virus. And for those who have the vaccination, the symptoms of influenza, if it does hit, are significantly lessened. Campus Health Services has provided a list of preventative measures:
•Practice proper cough and sneeze techniques (into your sleeve or tissue) to prevent the spread of germs.
•Wash your hands regularly.
•Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth.
•Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces when someone is ill.
•If you get sick with flu-like illness, stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is below 100 degrees, except to get medical care.
Keep in mind that these precautions are not guaranteed to keep the flu virus from spreading. However, they are recommended and are helpful for keeping campus healthy.
-Chris Yoder, Staff Writer