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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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One step away
June 8, 2024

Tough flu strain leads to epidemic

Summer, spring, winter, fall and flu — the five seasons of the year. And this flu season has been a rough one.
Last week, the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention, announced that this year’s flu virus vaccine is only 23 percent effective. On Dec. 30, after the deaths of 15 children, the CDC nationally declared the flu officially an epidemic.
Sarah Mendez, health education and promotion director at the Brazos County Health Department, said the less effective vaccine played a large role in this year’s flu season.
Mendez said this year’s vaccine covers some strains of flu, but it did not contain strains of Flu Strain A, or H3N2, which was the strain of flu found most often.
“This year the CDC has been doing some studies and found that the different strains of the types of viruses that are in the actual flu shot this year is not matching with what we are seeing as the types of flu that people are getting,” Mendez said.
Mendez said the CDC attempts each year to predict which strains of the flu will be popular to put samples of those in that year’s flu vaccine. This year the CDC missed the mark.
Another factor that plays into why the flu is so widespread this season lies in the contagiousness of the flu, a respiratory infection, Mendez said.
“So if people cough in their hands, and then they’re touching things, whether it be an elevator button, or a doorknob or a grocery cart at the store, then they can spread the flu virus that way,” Mendez said.
While the flu can lead to death in some serious cases, David Teller, associate director for medical services at Student Health Services, said a number of the reported cases of flu-related deaths can be traced back to immune system difficulties.
“A lot of it depends on the immune status of the person,” Teller said. “So the ones that go on to have not such a great result, most of them have some immune issues. There’s something wrong with their immune systems, they don’t fight infections as well.”
Mendez said many fatal flu cases are found in the very young or the elderly.
“We see the vulnerable populations in children, like small children, and then older adults, just because in small kids their immune systems aren’t built up, older adults, their immune systems are starting to slow down, and so they can have more complications where the flu can lead to pneumonia and those kinds of things, just because their immune systems aren’t able to fight them off,” Mendez said.
Teller said exhaustion also plays into the strength of an immune system.
“For students at the end of the semester, you’re probably worn out or exhausted and that’s also a factor of the immune system,” Teller said. “But it’s a common fact of life. Students have to study and go on through the fatigue, and being worn out at the end of the semester is a fact of life. It would be great if you could get plenty of sleep, eat well, exercise, but when the finals start coming in, you just run out of time.”
Communication junior Lisa Cordero contracted the flu over winter break and said while a lot of people tend to overreact, if they follow doctor’s instructions the flu is treatable.
“One thing you hear when you get the flu, you hear that you need to go to the hospital, or it’s so severe, but it’s just one of those things where if you rest and you’re at home and you listen to the doctor, it’s fine,” Cordero said. “If you get it, just drink a lot of water, that’s about it. That’s one thing the doctor said, to basically do overkill with water, and that definitely helped.”
Regardless of the ineffectiveness of the vaccine, Mendez said it’s still important to get vaccinated, even this late in the season, because the vaccine is still the best prevention method.
“It’s not too late to get vaccinated now, and it is still important just because there are different strains in the vaccine,” Mendez said. “So some vaccines have three different strains, some have four, and although it may be a mismatch on that one strain we’re still going to get protection on those others.”
For those who are opposed to being vaccinated or don’t have the means to do so, Teller said good hygiene is the next line of defense.
Flu season typically lasts from October to March, so numbers are declining. Teller is optimistic it should continue to decrease in scope until it disappears entirely.
“If the weather stays good, you guys stay healthy, don’t get one ‘Typhoid Mary’ kind of person in the crowd, that one person that just has to go to class and cough on everybody, is just the downfall,” Teller said. “Stay healthy, eat right, get sleep, exercise.”

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