Campus community battles uncommonly large flu outbreak

Posted on Feb 8 2017 - 10:13pm by Alexandra Morris and Carly Owen

Flu season is at its peak, and Ole Miss has seen more cases than usual this year.

Living in close quarters, participating in social activities and attending class are all factors that make college students more prone to influenza. Day-to-day interaction makes it impossible to avoid exposure to the disease.

Just last week, the student pharmacy filled more than 200 prescriptions for Tamiflu, the medication used to limit the severity of flu symptoms. Tamiflu can also shorten the duration of each case by up to a day, according to the Ole Miss Student Health Center’s lead physician, Dr. Travis Yates.

“We started peaking out with influenza this past week,” Yates said. “We probably saw more than 125 cases of influenza last week alone.”

On a national level, the United States Center for Disease Control estimates around 200,000 Americans are hospitalized with some strand of the flu every year, and there are an estimated 36,000 flu-related deaths. According to a former Baptist Memorial Hospital charge nurse Renee Owen, children, elderly and asthmatics are at the highest risk for death.

Any healthcare provider will say your best bet for avoiding the flu altogether is a yearly flu shot. These injections are filled with a solution modified from the previous year’s most common strain of influenza, making it easier for the immune system to recognize and dispose of the flu virus.

There are countless opportunities for students to get flu shots every year, from going to Walmart to stopping at the stations set up by pharmacy students around campus at the beginning of flu season every fall.

However, the CDC website says the flu vaccine only reduces the risk of illness by about 50 to 60 percent during flu season. Many students every year contract the flu regardless of whether or not they receive the flu shot.

One of these students is freshman Madison McCay. McCay received a flu shot, but she contracted the flu from her roommate, who did not get the vaccine.

“I won’t get the shot again,” McCay said. “I don’t believe in it. This is the first time I’ve gotten it, and I got the flu. I’ve never gotten the flu before.”

But for others, any precaution is better than nothing. Sophomore Kevin Hyatt had the flu last year the week before spring break. He had a more severe case that caused him to miss a week of school, prompting his parents to come all the way to Oxford to pick him up and bring him home.

“I was sweating through my clothes. I was coughing profusely. I was throwing up,” Hyatt said. “It was pretty miserable.”

He said that from now on he will be getting the flu shot every year.

Liz Sharlot, the director of communications at the Mississippi Department of Health, said it is never too late to get vaccinated.

“If you do get the flu and you’ve gotten the flu shot, you will recover much easier in most cases,” Sharlot said.

Although it takes up to two weeks for the vaccination to take full effect, we still have at least a month of flu season left this year. Sharlot has some advice for students to help survive this flu season.

“The best advice is always always always get a flu shot,” Sharlot said. “Secondly, if you are sick, you need to stay home and get better. Third, also to prevent getting the flu, is wash your hands often and get enough rest.”

This article was submitted to The Daily Mississippian from an advanced reporting class.