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Practice healthy habits to avoid illness

If you are experiencing a high fever, chills, muscle aches, coughing, congestion, a runny nose, headaches and fatigue, you may have caught the dreaded influenza viral infection. Influenza, the flu, is a contagious respiratory illness. Depending on the year, 5% to 20% of Americans catch the flu each year.

Feather Staff | The Feather Online

Numerous local drugstores and pharmacies offer flu shots for a relatively cheap fee.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) explains that it is easier to prevent the flu, rather than treat it. They provide the average yearly numbers and they are astounding. There are around 31.4 million flu-related outpatient visits yearly, the flu causes around 200,000 hospitalizations, and between three and 49 thousand deaths.

Last year’s flu season was classified as high severity over all age groups and was the worst flu epidemic the CDC had seen in three decades, causing approximately 80 thousand deaths last year. While this year’s flu season has been mild so far, compared to last year, in the past three weeks locals have seen the number of influenza cases rise.

The CDC encourages anyone six months of age or older to receive their flu shots in October, as it takes two weeks for the antibodies to develop and for your body to build up protection against the infection. That way your body can build up an immune response to the flu before the peak season, which is normally Dec. through Feb.

Getting the flu means having to stay home from school or work due to it being a severe infection and highly contagious. Julia Fikse, ‘19, did not get a flu shot and explains her reasoning behind it.

“I did not get the flu shot, because it seems like whenever people get it, they get the flu anyway,” Fikse said. “Plus, it only protects you from one type of the flu, when there’s a lot more going around.”

Fikse then contracted the flu a few weeks ago and ended up falling a little behind in school. She experienced uncomfortable symptoms and felt exhausted.

“The hardest part of the flu was being sick all night and not getting any sleep, it made me super weak, so I wasn’t able to go to school,” Fikse continued. “The flu made me feel really sick and exhausted. I wasn’t able to eat or drink for a while. I was sick during the school week, so I did fall behind in my school work. I didn’t get too lost though because I was able to do some of my work at home on my computer.”

Jason Olson, ‘20, receives a shot every year and has never experienced the flu.

“My mom makes my siblings and I get a flu shot every year,” Olson said. “I don’t know if it helps or not, but I’ve never gotten the flu, so I think it works. I usually don’t do anything to prevent it. To me the flu is just like a cold, it doesn’t seem that bad and I’m pretty sure it will feel just like a cold.”

Tom Cross, a Pharm. D. at Valley Children’s Healthcare, notices the number of patients coming in for influenza rising this month, although the peak season is not for another month or two. He encourages healthy habits to prevent the infection.

“At Valley Children’s, we are seeing some influenza patients in December, when it usually begins, then the influenza numbers usually peak in late January or early February,” Cross said. “The emergency rooms are extremely busy in January and February. A medication called Tamiflu can shorten the duration of influenza if started early usually within 1-2 days of getting sick. We have dispensed many influenza vaccines to our patients so far in the hospital.  We encourage patients to eat healthily and drink plenty of fluids and follow the preventive steps below to minimize the infection risk.”

Sophomore Andrew Moore discusses his decision to get his flu shot and what measures he takes to prevent the flu.

Malynda Kemner, a nurse practitioner in the in the oncology clinic at Valley Children’s, predicts seeing more and more children with influenza.

“As the season progresses we expect to see more cases of influenza,” Kemner said. “According to the CDC, it’s either December and January or January and February that are typical peak cases. We can get onto the CDC site and verify what they are expecting for this year.”

Kemner continues to discuss how Valley Children’s is taking steps to prevent the spread of the flu.

“Valley Children’s Healthcare is taking measures to protect the children we care for,” Kemner continues. “Our oncology department has implemented measures to ensure that our patients on active chemotherapy receive this year’s flu vaccine. We are encouraging off-therapy patients and household members to get vaccinated. Of course, we also encourage good handwashing, cover your cough, avoid ill contacts and stay home when not feeling well to minimize the risk of spreading the virus. Our hospital requires that all employees receive the vaccine.”

In order to protect yourself from the flu bug, make sure to wash your hands and get plenty of sleep to keep yourself healthy.

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Toryn Triplitt can be reached via Twitter and via email.

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