The fever, aches and coughing associated with the flu are sure to leave some students out of class and feeling miserable this year.
Unless they are vaccinated, students are at risk of contracting the flu virus, which is widespread in Pennsylvania this season, according to the PA Influenza Weekly Activity Report issued by the Pennsylvania Department of Health.
“We reported more cases of the flu last week than we reported all of last year,” said Holli Senior, deputy press secretary for the Pennsylvania Department of Health . “It’s a very active flu season.”
While about 3,000 cases were reported statewide all of last year, there were 4,256 cases of influenza reported in Pennsylvania between Dec. 30 and Jan. 5 this season, according to a weekly report. Also according to the report, 22 flu-related deaths have been reported in Pennsylvania this season, two involving otherwise healthy individuals under the age of 50 .
Since October, 301 confirmed cases were reported in Centre County, according to the report. Because only laboratory-confirmed cases are included in these statistics, the Department of Health warns that these numbers represent merely a fraction of the total incidents of flu-related illnesses.
Hospitalizations due to the flu have increased significantly at Mount Nittany Medical Center , the hospital’s Communications Coordinator Elle Morgan said.
“From Dec. 17 to Dec. 26, we had a 50 percent increase in cases of the flu that came into the emergency room,” Morgan said.
The predominant strain circulating this season, A/H3N2, is associated with more severe illness than other strains, particularly in the elderly, Senior said. Doctors believe the season will continue to get worse over the next few weeks, Morgan said.
Fortunately, this year’s influenza vaccine is well matched with the virus, meaning that it effectively protects against the most widespread strains of influenza, Senior said.
With much of the flu season still ahead “it is not too late to get vaccinated,” Senior said.
Penn State students can receive flu shots for $13 at three upcoming clinics, Beth Blew , marketing director for University Health Services, said. The clinics will be held in 205 Student Health Center from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Jan. 14, 12 p.m. to 3 p.m. Jan. 15 and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Jan. 21, Blew said.
Students who are unable to attend the clinics can schedule an appointment to receive the vaccine for $23.
In addition to getting vaccinated, Blew said it is important to wash hands often, especially before eating or preparing food. She also recommends not sharing food with others, getting plenty of rest, and staying at home when sick to slow the spread of the virus.