Influenza strain wreaks havoc on children, elderly

Elin Johnson and Olivia Gomez

The virus that some are calling “the flu from hell” has made its mark in Oregon, killing children and infecting Linfield students.

As of Jan. 29, two children in Oregon had died, one of whom was from Yamhill County. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that 53 children nationwide had died as of Feb. 2.

Although infection rates are high in Oregon according to the CDC, the trends seen here differ from those seen nationwide. Influenza strain H3N2 has been most frequently reported across the country, but H1N1 is the most common of a few strains circulating in Oregon, reported the Oregonian in January.

Public health officials nationwide and Linfield Student Health, Wellness and Counseling Center employees stress the importance of getting vaccinated against the flu, even this late in the season.

McKenzie Thurman, PA-C, advised students to get vaccinated now if they have not rather than wait it out, as flu season can continue through March or April and the vaccine takes two weeks to become effective.

Thurman said that over January term, Linfield saw cases of influenza A (the category strains H3N2 and H1N1 fall under) and influenza B. Recommended vaccines help protect against both H3N2 and H1N1 strains and influenza B.

The News-Register reported last week that this flu season has hit elderly people, young children, and people with chronic disease more than others.

Junior education major Brittany Seyl has seen this firsthand. She works at a local montessori school and has had many students stay home sick.

“It’s worrying because they’re little,” Seyl said. She has not caught the flu.

A Yamhill County Health Department worker Dominique who preferred to not give her last name emphasized how unpredictable flu season can be from year to year. She said medical professionals are “hoping for the best and preparing for what could be.”

This is not to say that the U.S. will look like the end of Steven Soderbergh’s “Contagion.” Some preventative actions people can take include washing their hands frequently, covering their mouths when they cough or sneeze and cleaning areas where germs can easily be spread.

Flu symptoms come on suddenly, unlike those of a cold. The fever that accompanies the flu often lasts three or four days and appears with body aches, chills, fatigue, chest discomfort and headache. Common cold symptoms tend to be sneezing, congestion and a sore throat.

Thurman said that while antiviral drugs are the most effective in treating the flu, most people come down with mild cases and do not need them.

If you experience flu-like symptoms, visit your doctor or the Health and Wellness Center. Also get plenty of rest, drink water and stay home from class if you feel too unwell.