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Photo courtesy of VSU

What to expect this flu season

It’s that time of year again: flu season. According to the Georgia Department of Public Health (DPH), in the first week of the new year there was a high influenza-like illness intensity with widespread occurrences throughout Georgia. The DPH also reports that there have been 26 influenza outbreaks so far this season.

Symptoms of influenza or the flu are: fever, body aches, runny nose, dry cough, headache, fatigue, sore throat, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. Although, each individual might not have all of these symptoms at once. Symptoms can still progress after being seen by a medical professional, so keep in mind that you could feel worse before feeling better.

Some things that you can do to avoid getting the flu are:

  1. Get a flu vaccine. (They’re available in the Student Health Center for $10)
  2. Wash your hands frequently for at least 30 seconds with hot water or use alcohol based hand sanitizer.
  3. Avoid touching your face (eyes, nose, mouth, ears).
  4. Avoid contact with individuals who are sick.
  5. Cover your mouth and nose with your elbow or a tissue when you cough or sneeze.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) officials state that we have influenza season each year due to the influenza virus evolving.  It is difficult to find a vaccine that we can get just once to prevent the influenza virus for life. There are currently four types of influenza going around. H1N1 (also known as the swine flu), H3N2 and two lineages of influenza B: Yamagata and Victoria. The officials state that the vaccine has a combination of these types of influenza to help individuals who receive a flu vaccination from contracting the flu.

The CDC reported that this years flu vaccination is approximately 30 percent effective in preventing the flu.

If you do get sick you should:

  1. Stay home and rest.
  2. Drink plenty of fluids. Preferably water or Pedialyte to keep your electrolytes up (especially if you have been vomiting).
  3. See your health care provider. If you do not have a health care provider in Valdosta, you can go to the Student Health Center. They can provide student patients with class excuses as determined necessary.
  4. Avoid alcohol and tobacco because they can weaken your immune system.

It is very important that if you suspect that you have the flu to see a health care professional. Several illnesses such as the common cold, strep throat and other infections have symptoms that are flu like. While strep throat can be cured by taking antibiotics, the influenza is a virus. This means that taking antibiotics will not make the flu go away any faster.

According to the CDC of the estimated 154 million prescriptions for antibiotics that are written each year, 30 percent of the prescriptions are unnecessary. While antibiotics can be lifesaving, improper use can lead to antibiotic resistant bacteria. It can also have potentially life threatening issues and unwanted side effects. If you are prescribed an antibiotic for a legitimate reason (bacterial infections NOT viruses), make sure that you take it exactly as prescribed and the length of time specified even if you start feeling better halfway through taking them. This helps ensure that all the bacteria causing the infection gets killed and reduce the risk of antibiotic resistant strains developing.

In short, to avoid getting the flu remember to wash your hands frequently, stay hydrated and get plenty of rest. If possible get a flu vaccine from the Student Health Center, or any reputable pharmacy that carries flu vaccinations. If you suspect that you have the flu, see a health care professional so you can get tested for the flu before taking your parents leftover antibiotics from three years ago. In fact, just discard any old antibiotic prescriptions laying around as this can contribute to the development of antibiotic resistant bacteria.

Story by Veronica You, Special Projects Editor. Photos courtesy of VSU.

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