While the current flu season has not been as severe as the 2017-2018 flu season, staff members at Lafene Health Center have reported seeing 81 possible flu patients this season, with 31 of those patients being confirmed influenza cases.
“Last year, the season seemed to start earlier and went longer,” Abby King, Lafene nursing coordinator, said. “This year, at least at Lafene, it seemed like we have seen more positive cases later on in the flu season. … It seems like the vaccine is a much better match this year compared to last.”
As the flu season is still underway, Lafene encourages students to schedule appointments for flu shots through the online portal, phone calls or walk-ins.
“The first precaution we can tell students is to take the time to get the flu vaccine each year,” LeAnn Sturdy, communicable disease nurse at Lafene, said.
Other precautions for students to avoid catching the flu include avoiding close contact with others who are sick or ill, staying home from class if you have a fever, covering your nose and mouth when you sneeze and washing your hands regularly.
“Just as the Center for Disease Control says, ‘If you have flu-like symptoms or have concerns that you may be coming down with the flu, be seen by a doctor,’” Sturdy said. “If students have influenza, we will want to prescribe an antiviral medicine, which is different than an antibiotic.”
Sturdy said antiviral medicines work better than antibiotics when it comes to diseases like the influenza virus, and Lafene has some in stock for patients who need them.
“Antiviral drugs can make an illness milder and shorten the time you are sick,” Sturdy said. “When treatment is started soon after illness onset, it may help prevent some flu complications.”
The CDC recommends prompt antiviral treatment of people who are severely ill and people who may be at risk of serious flu complications.
“People at high risk can be those that have asthma or diabetes,” Sturdy said. “[They] should really make sure they come in so that we can help them get started, hopefully with 48 hours of getting sick. The sooner we can see them, the better.”
Sturdy said antiviral drugs are prescription only and do not substitute the influenza vaccine.