News of COVID-19, known as the coronavirus, is increasing in media coverage. But any word of influenza, one of the biggest killers in history, is old news.
The flu, an annual epidemic, is more prevalent and dangerous in the United States than coronavirus. Coronavirus is a serious issue, but influenza is more of a direct threat to the health of Pennsylvanians.
We must be aware of the flu and protect ourselves from contracting and spreading it.
The flu is a highly contagious respiratory illness caused by the influenza virus, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Symptoms include fever, cough, sore throat, runny nose, muscle pain, headaches, fatigue and more.
Kathryn Reinert, a junior theater major, recalled when she realized she had the flu.
“My head started getting fuzzy and dizzy,” Reinert said. “I spent the next two days unable to move more than a few feet from my bed without feeling so sick that I was just going to collapse.”
Reinert had the flu for nearly two weeks and was told not to attend class, she said.
Katie Page, a sophomore economics major, also caught the flu earlier in the semester.
“I think I got it the first time during rush week because a lot of the girls in the sorority I got into ended up having it, so I think it ended up spreading around that way,” Page said. “It started off as a persistent cough and then body aches, chills and a low grade fever. I was also super congested for most of it.”
So far this flu season, which began approximately in October, there have been 29 million confirmed cases in the U.S., including 280,000 hospitalizations and 16,000 deaths, according to a Feb. 15 report by the CDC.
In Philadelphia, 840 were hospitalized and 16 died as of Feb. 24, according to the Philadelphia Department of Health.
Reported cases of influenza and influenza-related illnesses at Temple University have remained steady in recent years, at about 3,300 to 3,500 cases between Oct. 1 and today, said Mark Denys, senior director of Student Health Services.
Considering how the direct threat of the flu is greater than that of the coronavirus, it is essential that we focus on vaccinations in order to reduce the spread of the flu.
Influenza vaccines are shown to reduce the risk of flu illness by as much as 40-60 percent, according to the CDC. In 2017-18, flu vaccines prevented approximately 3.2 million medical visits, 91,000 hospitalizations and 5,700 deaths, the CDC further reported.
As of Jan. 7, Temple University’s Student Health Services no longer has flu shots available for students and faculty, exceeding their limited supply of free flu vaccines, Denys said. SHS recommends getting this vaccine from a nearby pharmacy or primary physician.
Vaccinations not only reduces the risk of contracting the flu yourself, but also protect the people around you.
College students are in more vulnerable situations by living in close contact with others and attending crowded parties where one person sneezing could potentially affect everyone within a close radius, Denys said.
Wash your hands and dress properly during the winter months, and if you start developing any flu-like symptoms, don’t shrug it off as a cold. Isolate yourself by staying home, and don’t come to class or work.
Coronavirus shouldn’t be overlooked. It’s a rapidly growing epidemic that can be fatal if left untreated. But let’s not forget the virus that affects millions of people in the U.S. each year and has one of the worst track records in the history of modern medicine.