By Alexandria Zine

Like many winter seasons previously, the flu is becoming widespread and unfortunately fatal in some cases. Based on CDC records for 2019-2020 in the ABC News article “Flu Shot Better than Last Year, despite Tough Season for Kids”, an approximation of 16,000 people have died and 280,000 people have been hospitalized.

This highly contagious illness can ravage an individual’s health and be potentially fatal depending on other present medical conditions. The alarmingly high death toll can dwindle if medical attention is sought out immediately. Assuming that flu symptoms are as benign as a common cold is a grave mistake. Within that same ABC News article, further CDC reports find that 29 million people are victims of the flu in 2019-2020.

Similarly, NBC News article “College Students Get ‘F’ for Flu Vaccinations — and That Can Be an Issue” concludes that a total of 68 children have died. Young children, young adults or anyone with a compromised immune system are likely to succumb to the flu. It does not take long to transmit the flu to another, especially at the height of winter, which emphasizes the importance of healthy habits for self-protection and slowing the spread of this deadly sickness.

There are multiple misconceptions surrounding influenza and its devastating effects in comparison to other illnesses. Two strains of the virus exist, influenza A and B, where the former commonly targets the elderly while the latter tends to affect children. In ABC News article “Flu Shot Better than Last Year, despite Tough Season for Kids”, Dr. Jessica Grayson explains these specifics on influenza. In that same article, Dr. Jennifer Caudle said that influenza thrives in “early October through about mid-May”.

Although it appears that the flu has reached its climax, precautions should remain in place. If the virus has one or two waves throughout the season, it is important to brace for the ripples headed for our collective health.

Influenza strikes abruptly with bodily aches, chills, high fever and an unbearable headache. The only likenesses the flu has with the common cold are congestion, fever (of varying degrees) and sore throat, among a few others. Acute awareness of influenza symptoms can preserve one’s health and that of their peers. According to the US News & World Report article “Flu Vs. the Common Cold: Symptoms and Treatment”, concerning symptoms include: a fever equivalent to 102 degrees Fahrenheit or higher, labored breathing, chest pain, excruciating headache and confusion. Additionally, secondary infections, such as sepsis, can set in and initiate a deterioration of health when significant bodily processes stop. The repercussions of the flu are certainly heavy.

Despite the prevalence of influenza, it is possible to depart winter unscathed by the flu. In every building at Cape Cod Community College (4Cs), there are motion sensor hand sanitizer dispensers and restrooms to encourage frequent handwashing. Luckily, the virus lasts briefly on surfaces. Other recommendations within the US News & World Report article consist of: annual flu vaccination, distance from the afflicted and prioritizing personal hygiene.

The NBC News article “College Students Get ‘F’ for Flu Vaccinations — and That Can Be an Issue” highlights the contagious nature of the flu within dormitories, classrooms and public restrooms alongside its week long duration that negatively impacts student academic progress. Fortunately, in this instance, 4Cs not providing on-campus student housing helps to decrease its spread.

Preventative measures are intended to strengthen one’s immune response, not guarantee complete immunity or invincibility against viruses. Essentially a fighting chance for one’s immune system against those invaders, which is the extent of one’s ability to maintain optimal health.

Although the vaccine is typically administered at the beginning of the flu season, 4Cs students should still consider receiving the vaccine as it can increase the likelihood of a successful and quick recovery.

To prevent contracting influenza, decontaminate surfaces and hands, receive the flu vaccine and avoid infected individuals. If one is an influenza victim, increase one’s intake of nutrient dense foods along with fluids and rest at home to halt spreading the illness. The intensity of the influenza bout varies in individuals and self-assessment is required to determine if antiviral medications (such as Tamiflu) are necessary.