Prevention is the Best Medicine

Two more flu deaths have recently been reported in North Dakota.

According to the North Dakota Department of Health’s weekly flu update, these deaths have brought the total up to 10 in 2018. North Dakota hospitals are responding to the rapid spike in flu hospitalizations. Student Health Services advises students at NDSU to know the following:

This is not just the common flu

Jill Baber, North Dakota Department of Health Flu Epidemiologist, says that the H3N2 strain is a common strain of influenza that has been around for decades. It is one of the two most common strains that circulate each flu season, with the H1N1 strain being its counterpart.

Two different factors make the H3N2 particularly unique. This strain mutates extremely rapidly, which makes finding a vaccine nearly impossible under certain conditions. Additionally, the strain grows poorly in eggs, which in turn makes vaccines less effective.

The grand total of flu related cases in January 2018 have reached 2,520, according to data from the North Dakota Health Department. There have been 145 influenza-related hospitalizations. The strain is especially detrimental to children and the elderly.

How is the flu affecting NDSU?

From the dates of Oct. 1, 2017 to Jan. 23, 2018, there have been 139 appointments scheduled at the Student Health Services. In addition to these appointments, 463 flu shots have been given to students in comparison to 441 the previous year.

How effective is the vaccine?

The efficacy of a vaccine is hard to pinpoint because it changes yearly. The Australian vaccine has demonstrated 10 percent efficacy. The United States efficacy will not be known until mid-February after more tests have been completed.

Although the vaccination is not required, students are encouraged to receive the vaccine, especially if they have underlying medical conditions such as asthma or diabetes.

Prevention is the top priority

Throughout recent years, negative stereotypes have circulated concerning receiving the flu vaccine. Student Health Service professionals say they often receive students who say that they never get sick, the flu shot made them sick or mistake the stomach flu for influenza.

One of the top priorities for Student Health Services is prevention through education. Health care workers, including Sharon Dunkel, JoAnna Solhjem and Theresa Wickenheiser, believe in educating students on the signs, symptoms and treatment so that they can make personal decisions regarding their care. Further education includes teaching hand-washing techniques and the importance of staying home to prevent contagion. The Healthy Herd Champions organization has been performing cold/flu seminars in the Union and other areas around campus.

For those who believe in self-medication, ibuprofen, cough syrup and acetaminophen are suggested in flu-related cases. Students are also asked not to return to class or work until they have remained fever-free for at least 24 hours.

Further information regarding prevention techniques, symptoms and treatment can be found at the Center for Disease Control webpage.

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