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The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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Fighting flu season

Photo by Photo by Abbey Santoro

The most recent Texas vaccination report shows one-third of Texans have taken the opportunity to get vaccinated against COVID-19 which has contributed to the lowest number of cases and hospitalizations across the state in over a year. 

With flu season around the corner, there is uncertainty in the air as the COVID-19 delta variant still runs rampant.
After a quiet flu season last year, Brazos Valley health officials are urging individuals to get vaccinated to help lower the number of influenza cases in the area. Student Health Services, or SHS, director Dr. Martha Dannenbaum said SHS saw no cases of the flu in the 2020-2021 school year, but expects this statistic to change.
“We do a lot of flu testing, because we have a combination COVID[-19]-flu test,” Dannenbaum said. “The reason we didn’t have a lot of flu is we didn’t have as many mass gatherings, we had people wearing face coverings and avoiding close contact and if they were sick, they stayed home. If some of those habits continue, individuals [who] begin to feel symptoms of any type of illness, and they choose not to go to class and not to go to work, then we won’t see as big of a spike as maybe we would in preCOVID[-19] era.”
Brazos County Health District Health Authority Dr. Seth Sullivan said health officials are not sure what to expect for the upcoming flu season after the slow last year.
“We saw an uncharacteristically quiet flu year last year, I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything like it. It was remarkably quiet, eerily quiet. This year, we have started to see a couple cases, but it really has not been much,” Sullivan said. “Typically we consider the flu season between October and April, so this is really when we can start to see it.”
Texas A&M SHS Chief Medical Officer Tiffany Skaggs said officials believe the low number of cases last year were due to the required COVID-19 precautions.
“I suspect the lower numbers last year were due to face covering and social distancing,” Skaggs said in an email to The Battalion. “Both social distancing and face coverings decrease respiratory droplet infections.”
With the ongoing variants of COVID-19, Sullivan said it is possible to be infected by both COVID-19 and the flu at the same time, though it is not certain if having one influences the other.
“We know that influenza and COVID-19 co-circulate, so a lot of times we’ll do these PCR tests that are a variety of tests,” Sullivan said. “If somebody comes to the hospital, we do one swab, but it looks for 10 different viruses and so that’s a way that wecan identify [those who have been infected].”
Neither the flu nor the COVID-19 vaccines guarantee complete immunity but work to lessen the spread and effects of the virus to reduce hospitalization as beds run short across the nation, Sullivan said.
“The flu vaccine works pretty similar to the COVID[-19] vaccine in the sense that it really does prevent severity and hospitalization. That’s the reason why it’s so strongly recommended in our elderly population, because that is the population that gets hit so strongly with influenza related illness.”
Skaggs said individuals can do their part in protecting themselves and the community by getting vaccinated for both the flu and COVID-19.
“Flu vaccines protect you and your community from a serious illness. It keeps you in the classroom, in your job, and generally in your life activities, and keeps you out of the hospital,” Skaggs said. “I would get them both at the same time ­­­— saves time and effort and the side effects are similar, so why not just get it over-with.”
According to its website, SHS will offer flu shots daily by appointment. Individuals who wish to receive their vaccination should bring personal identification such as their student ID or Government-issued ID. Additionally, SHS will host its “Tackle the Flu” shot campaign in the near future.
As for the current scene of the flu in Aggieland, Sullivan said the Brazos Valley has seen a few cases, but October is normally when the flu begins to make its way into the community.
“We’re definitely gonna see the flu this year. There’s no doubt about it,” Sullivan said. “We just don’t know how bad it’s going to be.”
Skaggs said she recommends taking precautions to avoid the flu such as getting a flu shot, eating a balanced diet, resting an adequate amount and getting exercise. Additionally, she urges individuals who do become infected to stay away from others and seek medical advice if needed.
“For flu season, stay home and away from others if you become ill,” Skaggs said. “Influenza treatment is recommended in cases of flu, especially in those with risk factors such as advanced age and chronic disease. So, if there is a concern, please seek testing and treatment.”

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