This Year’s Flu Season Has Returned and Has Already Affected up to 20% of America

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Mirra Goldenberg

The dreaded flu season has returned, and it is affecting over 60,000 people all across America. It is a mystery as to why this year’s flu is as bad as it is. Students and teachers throughout schools are coming down with the illness, and they are dropping like flies. It began spreading towards the end of 2017, and it is estimated to end in as late as May of 2018, keeping open a long window during which the flu can still be contracted.

What started as scattered kids at schools going home sick, quickly escalated to schools closing down temporarily due to the amount of flu cases. Recently, St. Michael the Archangel Catholic School in Leawood, Kan. closed to sanitize the entire building in prevention of any further spreading of sickness, particularly the flu.

Outside of the Kansas City area, a United Synagogue Youth (USY) region has been affected by the flu. After a recent convention in Omaha, Neb. this year, several USYers came down with the flu. This required an email to be sent out to notify everyone in Emtza (middle) Region USY about the illness spreading. It read: “there have been several USYers who have tested positive for the flu today, so if you become symptomatic, get to your doctor for a flu swab so you can begin Tamiflu!!!”

Luckily, the Hyman Brand Hebrew Academy in Overland Park is making it through the flu season relatively unscathed compared to other schools. There have been a few cases of flu and flu related illnesses over the past months, but it has not actually set in until recently. Between five and 10 high schoolers have contracted the flu within a week or two from each other. While one student returns to school not fully well, another one catches it and ends up with a sick day as well. It is a cycle with no visible ending point, but teachers are doing everything they can in preventing more sickness from spreading.

Roughly 5-10 HBHA high schoolers have contracted the flu.

Schools are not the only ones struggling to stay healthy. Dr. Kelly Kreisler, a local pediatrician, like many others “rarely get[s] sick,” but upon treating “young children [who] don’t cover their mouths when they cough,” she contracted the flu. Kreisler always encourages her patients to get flu shots every year, herself included.

Dr. Kreisler recommends that everyone get the flu shot as it is the best way to protect yourself.

“The flu shot is always your best bet to protect you from the flu,” she said, although, this year’s has fallen short.

A commentary published in the New England Journal of Medicine in November of 2017 estimated that current vaccines were reported to be only 10% effective against this year’s flu strain, called H3N2. This is most likely due to the mutation or the antibody serums used to create the vaccine. Even if the vaccine is not completely protecting people from getting sick, it limits spreading the flu to pregnant women, elderly, people with serious illness, and children, all of whom are at a higher risk of serious consequences from the flu.

There is a myth that a flu shot can cause the flu, but they “contain inactivated flu virus, so you CANNOT get the flu from the vaccine,” Kreisler explained. “Your body’s immune system makes antibodies against influenza, which helps you fight the infection if you get exposed to the flu. Even if you catch the flu, you are much less likely to be hospitalized or die if you’ve had your flu shot.”

Like Kreisler mentioned, the flu shot can be a lifesaver during this winter season, but people still continue to die everyday from this sickness. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates approximately 80% of flu-associated deaths this year occured in children who were not vaccinated. Because the flu can lead to major repercussions, something as simple as “wash[ing] [your] hands very frequently” can keep you from getting sick, Kreisler said.

Keeping your hands clean is a great way to stay healthy.

Although, if you do catch the flu, “there is a medicine you can take, but it only works if you take it within 48 hours of your very first symptoms. It shortens symptoms by about one day, but it doesn’t ‘cure’ the flu.” Also, Kreisler “recommend[s] drinking lots of fluids and taking honey for [a] cough…as long as you are over 1 year of age.”

“Every flu season is a little different,” Kreisler said. “Sadly, there are still children and adults who die every year from influenza,” and the only thing we can do to prevent it is by washing our hands and staying away from others who are sick.