Written by: John Preer
A deadly influenza virus has South Georgia in its crosshairs and is poised to strike again. The flu season is upon us, and reports from the Center for Disease Control suggest that young adults may be at a higher risk than other age groups.
In recent months there has been an influx in the number of individuals in South Georgia being exposed to the virus. Flu activity in the state has been classified as “widespread” which means that outbreaks are occurring in geographic areas that represent more than 50 percent of the state’s population.
The young adult age group includes people from the ages of 18 to 49. This demographic includes college students who are even more susceptible to the virus because of the close and frequent contact that takes place on college campuses.
Three flu-related deaths have been reported in South Georgia, all of which were young adults. It is important to note that the influenza virus was not the direct cause of death. The official cause of death for the three victims was due to complications involving the flu, not the virus itself.
The flu virus usually isn’t the direct cause of death; rather, other conditions arise, such as pneumonia, which destroys a victim’s already vulnerable immune system. A healthy immune system can be the difference between life and death for those exposed to the virus.
To understand why young adults are more at risk, people should be aware of the nature of the influenza virus. The flu virus is constantly adapting and evolving, which is why new vaccinations are recommended every flu season.
Because of the rapid adaptation, people between the ages of 18 and 49 haven’t developed the immune system to combat the virus.
The weekly influenza report from the Georgia Department of Public Health (GDPH) indicates that the proportion of outpatient visits for the flu was at 2.53 percent, which is slightly lower than the state’s baseline of 3.2 percent. Although the geographic spread of influenza in the entire state of Georgia was minimal, according to the most recent survey by the GDPH, students shouldn’t let their guard down.
The common symptoms of the influenza virus are a fever of 100 degrees or higher, a cough and/or a sore throat. Overall achiness and fatigue are also indicators of the flu. Because of the similarity in symptoms, influenza is often misdiagnosed as a common cold.
There a few simple precautions that people can take to help prevent exposure to the virus. Frequent hand washing (with soap) or alcoholic hand sanitizer will eliminate chances of transmitting the virus through touch. Covering the mouth and nose when sneezing will cut down on airborne transmission, and avoiding physical contact with infected people will also decrease chances of exposure.
The Weather Channel’s website offers a flu shot locator that people can use to find a reputable establishment that administers the vaccinations in their area. Any VSU students who suspect that they may have the flu should be aware that there is a full-time medical professional on campus that is available to provide aid.