Flu season nearing an end but still a risk

CASSIE EBERLE | STAFF REPORTER

With the peak of the flu season occurring in January and February, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates the total number of deaths to continue to rise until the end of the season, around May.

Julie Howerton, director of health services, said the health services still recommends those who have yet to get a flu shot to get one within the next 30 days, to prevent illness.

“We think we are getting closer to halfway of the peak of the season,” she said. “The risk of contracting the flu is still there if students are going to travel over spring break. We still have a few doses left and, hopefully, we can use those up.”

In addition to the vaccine, students can take preventative measures to avoid contracting the flu.

Health services suggests the usual preventative measures to avoid an illness, including frequently washing hands, getting a good night’s sleep, isolating oneself if flu-like symptoms emerge and regularly wiping down surfaces with a disinfectant.

As of Jan. 17, 97 flu-associated deaths have been reported in Indiana for the 2014-2015 flu season.

Influenza vaccines are less effective at preventing the flu this year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“The students we have seen here are about what the media is saying,” Howerton said. “35 to 50 percent of them who come in with flu-like symptoms have had their flu shot.”

Health services administered about 1,600 flu vaccinations this season.

Butler’s health services offers free influenza vaccines all season long to prevent an influenza outbreak on campus.

“We want to do what we can to remove any barricades,” Howerton said. “We want to make it convenient and readily available for students, faculty and staff so we can protect our community.”

Vaccines are created after CDC conducts research that predicts the type of flu virus that will circulate this year, Kristen Nichols, assistant professor of pharmacy practice, said. The vaccine protects against three to four viruses, depending on the vaccine.

“A major component of how well the flu vaccine works each year is how closely matched the viruses in the vaccine are to the viruses that are actually circulating.” Nichols said.

This season, the vaccine for the northern hemisphere was released before a drifted version of the H3N2 influenza virus emerged. This caused the vaccine to lose some of its effectiveness, according to CDC.

Some students do not see the value in getting a vaccine. 

“The flu changes every year,” freshman Mattie Doran said. “So, I really don’t see the point in getting one.”

A person who gets a flu vaccination this season will be 23 percent less likely to have to go to the doctor due to the flu, according to the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report published by CDC on Jan. 16, 2015.

CDC estimates that 5 to 20 percent of the population contracts the flu and more than 200,000 people are annually hospitalized from seasonal flu-related complications.

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