Students take precautions to avoid worst flu season

flu season; health clinic; ASU; health services; flu shot Katrece Swenson, a sophomore studying biological science, attended the ASU Health Services Flu Clinic to get her shot for the season. As a peer mentor living in the dorms, she wants avoid if at all possible getting sick this flu season. (Photo by Hector Salas Almeida)

Flu season is underway, and the Arizona Department of Health Services is making it out to be one of the worst in years.

In Arizona, the flu is typically at its worst at the end of February and March, said Brian Gomez, communications specialist with the Arizona chapter of the Red Cross.

"What worries (the Red Cross) about this season is that it has started so early, because this isn't the height of flu season yet," Gomez said.

There had been approximately 2,200 reported cases of the flu in Arizona by Jan. 10, half of which were reported this month alone, according to an Arizona Department of Health Services news release.

However, the number is not an accurate estimate, because many flu cases go unreported and untested, according to the news release.

University Campus Health Director Allan Markus said ASU has experienced an increase in flu cases that is uncommon for a typical season.

"(ASU has) seen at least double of what (the University) saw last year," Markus said. "It mirrors what Maricopa County has been seeing."

The most common strain of the flu virus this year is H3N2, which attacks the lungs and its repair mechanisms. This causes symptoms to last 10 to 14 days and be more severe, Markus said.

Markus said students with underlying conditions, such as asthma, should come into the Health Services offices within 24 to 48 hours to receive proper care. Students without such conditions should get extra rest and remain home rather than coming to Health Services.

Markus said students should also receive the flu shot.

"Models have predicted that this year's flu vaccine is 62 percent effective, and I know that doesn't sound too good, but it's actually pretty effective," Markus said.

Students can go to Health Services to receive the shot, Markus said.

Genetics sophomore Claire Farnsworth has not gotten the flu shot but said she practices good hygiene by using hand sanitizer and washing her hands regularly.

"I can't miss school," Farnsworth said. "In some of my classes, if you miss too many days, they drop you from the class."

Gomez said many cases of flu are mild and easily mistaken for a cold.

"It can be hard sometimes because people think they have a cold, but the flu symptoms are usually more severe," Gomez said. "Just pay attention for fever, headache and fatigue."

Typically, most people get a mild version of the flu that their immune systems can easily fight off in several days, Gomez said.

To prevent the spread of the virus, students should wash their hands frequently, avoid touching their face and not share things, he said.

"Definitely be cautious about not touching things you don't have to touch," Gomez said. "If you do notice that you have been touching things, go to the bathroom and wash your hands with soap and water."

Elementary education senior Alexis Morano-Buell said she takes extra precautions during flu season because she's a student teacher.

"I work with kids, so I always load up on vitamins and I wash my hands more frequently than usual,"Morano-Buell said. "Also, I try to eat healthy."

Applied biological sciences graduate student Jesus Garcia-Gonzalez said getting sick would create problems with his research.

"When I get sick, it gets really bad," he said. "It would definitely hinder my ability to do research, because I need to be alert when doing my research."

Garcia said he has taken extra precautions to avoid getting the flu this season.

"I am keeping my distance from people that are sick, and I wash my hands regularly," Garcia said. "Also, I try to use hand sanitizer during the day."

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