It seems that the flu is always on the front page or the top story on the news. As a result, many don’t take warnings about the flu seriously. However, the Center for Disease Control says it has seen more flu cases at this time of year than “in more than a decade.”
The seasonal flu, a “contagious viral infection that affects the respiratory system,” includes symptoms which include fever, coughing, runny nose, body aches and fatigue.
“The best way to avoid the flu,” CUSD Nurse Susan Pierszalowski notes, “is to get the vaccination.” The CDC currently recommends that everyone 6 months or older should get a vaccine.
This year the strain of flu circulating is Influenza A, or H3N2, known to cause more serious cases of the flu. While the flu usually peaks in February, it has already peaked in most parts of the country.
“Every year,” Pierszalowski says, “the CDC studies which viruses are most active,” and then are able to produce the most effective vaccine.
Even if one got a flu vaccination in previous years, that doesn’t mean the individual is necessarily immune, as the virus mutates and different strains appear each year. Influenza is most dangerous to infants, young children, the elderly and those who may have compromised immune systems.
Other ways to stop the spread of illnesses include washing hands often, avoiding those who are ill, eating healthy foods, exercising and getting enough sleep.
Pierszalowski also notes that teenagers often share drinks, which can be especially dangerous. If one has the flu but isn’t showing symptoms yet, that individual is still contagious.
If one contracts influenza, one may not need to go to the doctor until symptoms worsen. WebMD recommends that one should see the doctor for a cough or flu if having “chest pain, persistent fever, excessive vomiting and inability to keep liquids down, painful coughing, persistent coughing, persistent headache or congestion.”
Another increasingly common illness in MontereyCounty is viral gastroenteritis, which according to the CDC is “inflammation of the stomach and small and large intestines” which causes “vomiting and diarrhea.” It is mistakenly known as the “stomach flu,” even though it is not caused by an influenza virus.
CUSD stresses that students should not come to school if they experience symptoms of these seasonal illnesses. A health-advisory email sent out to parents on Jan. 11 explains that students that have either seasonal flu or viral gastroenteritis “must stay home for 24 hours after symptoms have ended.”
While the flu may be scary, Pierszalowski notes that it is not nearly as bad as H1N1 from 2009. Referring to the number of students absent, Pierszalowski says the school is not seeing those types of numbers.