Worsening flu season impacts Butler students

The Health Services office in the HRC. Photo from Collegian files.

MORGAN SKERIES | STAFF REPORTER | mskeries@butler.edu

More Butler University students are sick during this year’s flu season compared to last year’s. Students who got the shot and those who did not were victims of this year’s flu.

According to the Indiana State Department of Health’s Feb.16 report the, “spread and prevalence of influenza-like illness” is still very high. There have been a total of 195 influenza-associated deaths this season in Indiana.

Maria Fletcher, Butler family medicine physician, said about 30 students who were seen at Health Services were diagnosed with influenza, and flu-like illness last year. The same diagnosis codes were applied to more than 100 students during the same time this school year.

Because there are several types of influenza virus that cause illness every year, it is difficult to predict which strain to watch out for.

“We knew in fall 2017 the current strain of influenza, Influenza A-H3N2, is particularly virulent,” Fletcher said. “We have also know there are some Influenza B illness seen this year. This is the reason why we have strongly encouraged students, faculty and staff to get their flu shot during the fall semester.”

Quintin Meyers, junior political science and critical communication major, was one of the students this year that had the flu shot but still got sick.

He said he got the flu shot in December over winter break, but this was one of the first years he has ever gotten the flu, as he couldn’t remember the last time he had it.

“Honestly, it was really bad,” Meyers said. “I had a really rough schedule this past week and I just had to power through it.”

Meyers said sitting through his classes was a challenge.

“My whole body was aching the entire class,” Meyers said. “It was really rough.”

Meyers said he knows a lot of other people that came down with the flu, and it seems like a lot of students are sick.

“Yeah a lot of my friends were [sick],” Meyers said. “All of my roommates were, it seems like a lot of people are getting the flu or had the flu this year, which is not fun.”

19,398 laboratory-confirmed influenza-associated hospitalizations have been reported since Oct. 1, 2017 through the Influenza Hospitalization Network, according to The Center for Disease Control and Protection.

While the impact of flu varies, CDC estimates that influenza has resulted in between 9.2 million and 35.6 million illnesses, between 140,000 and 710,000 hospitalizations and between 12,000 and 56,000 deaths annually since 2010.

The flu shot can help to prevent the influenza disease, however it is possible to still contract it.

“If you were immunized with the flu shot and get influenza, your illness will be less severe and it will not last as long as if you were not immunized,” Fletcher said.

Stephen O’Connor, junior biology major, was another student who got the flu this semester. Unlike Meyers, he did not get the flu shot.

“I got it first out of my friends,” O’Connor said. “From [past] Saturday morning it started out with a headache and then I got really warm. I took my temperature and I had a 101 [degree] fever. I thought ‘this is probably not just a headache,’ and then it persisted all day.”

The symptoms were comparatively worse than other years, and O’Connor said the cough was the worst part about the sickness.

“After the flu symptoms went away, aside from being just tired, the cough was the most persistent part,” O’Connor said.

He described the cough as “non-stop consistent” and he felt like he “couldn’t breathe.”

“The flu part was bad but the cough kept me out of class,” O’Connor said. “And you’re spreading it no one wants to sit next to that. I probably could have gone to class, but the cough kept me out.”

O’Connor agrees with Meyers in that it seems like more people have gotten the flu this year.

“Classes seem like their smaller,” O’Connor said. “That could be people not showing up to class because of flu season or because it’s the middle of the semester.”

Due to all of the events around campus, O’Connor said he thinks that Butler is a prime place for the flu to take off.

“We’re having home basketball games and people are going there. 9,100 people in a confined area during flu season is not good,” O’Connor said. “Also, classrooms are small and close, so it’s easy for things to spread. So many people are also living in mass resident halls with elevators…you could cough and it carries.”

O’Connor said that he feels like students go to class still sick because there is a pressure to not miss class at Butler, however he thinks that is similar to most colleges.

Butler Family Medicine Physician Fletcher said if students have been diagnosed with influenza or influenza-like illness, they need to keep a mask on if they are going to be in the company of others until their temperature is less than 100.5 for 24 hours without taking antipyretics.

Aside from getting the flu shot to prevent getting the flu, it is important to wash your hands frequently, or use hand sanitizer, and to wipe frequently touched surfaces with antimicrobial wipes because the virus can remain viable even after 24 hours, Fletcher said.

“Cover your cough and avoid contact with people who are ill, or if you feel ill yourself, you should avoid contact with others,” Fletcher said. “Drink plenty of fluids, get good sleep, eat healthy and avoid overextending yourself.”

 

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