Influenza season: So hot right now

Influenza season is upon us at Portland State, and if you haven’t received your flu shot yet, there is still time to protect your health and precious study time before looming exams.

According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, outpatient visits for flu-like symptoms are above average this year and are expected to rise.

The Oregon Health Authority website warns that influenza season normally runs between November and April, infecting 10–20 percent of the population. The OHA website also emphasized, “More than 200,000 people are hospitalized with influenza each year in the U.S.”

Influenza, aka “the flu,” is a highly contagious, viral respiratory tract infection that is spread through the droplets transferred from sick individuals when they talk, cough, or sneeze. Due to the nature of virus biology, transmission of the flu can also be spread by touching an infected surface or object and then touching one’s own mouth, eyes, or nose.

Common flu symptoms include fever, chills, coughing, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, muscle and body aches, headaches, and severe fatigue. According to the CDC however, not everyone with the flu will have a fever.

Once exposed to the flu, one may not develop symptoms from one to four days. Affected students may be able to infect others one day before symptoms appear, and up to a week after becoming sick.

Keeping the flu away from high-risk individuals is especially important in preventing further complications such as bacterial pneumonia, ear infections, or sinus infections (among others). High risk individuals are those who are 65 years or older, pregnant women, young children, and those with chronic medical conditions such as asthma, diabetes or heart disease.

In 2014, the CDC reported 4,600 Americans died from the flu, and that influenza and pneumonia combined were the eighth leading cause of death.

Treating the flu is often difficult and requires time and patience. Depending on the severity of one’s condition, antiviral drugs can be used to treat the flu. According to Oregon Health and Sciences University, antiviral drugs are prescribed to fight the virus by preventing the virus from reproducing within your body, but they only work best if started within the first two days of symptoms. Such drugs will allow the sick to recover faster and can also prevent serious flu complications.

The best way to prevent contracting the flu is to receive a vaccination every year and to stay away from those who are sick, to cover your mouth and sneezes, and to wash your hands frequently. Wearing a mask to prevent illness is not effective unless worn by sick individuals themselves.

Vaccination protection typically takes two weeks to set in, so it’s best to be prepared now before being exposed. The CDC recommends a yearly flu vaccination for anyone over six months of age.

Flu vaccines are prepared to act against influenza viruses that researchers have statistically found to be more prevalent. Common vaccinations will protect patients against influenza A (H1N1) and (H3N2) virus, along with one or more influenza B viruses.

Flu vaccinations contain inactivated forms of the virus, so those who receive their shots will not become ill from the vaccination itself. Over 143 million doses of seasonal flu shots have been distributed this season alone.

Vaccinations are covered under the PSU insurance plan and can also be administered through local pharmacies and preferred medical providers. Please contact SHAC for more information at their website.