(COVINGTON, La.) The St. Paul’s Community, along with much of the surrounding community and the entire southeast United States region has been hit with one of the worst flu seasons in the past decade. The reason for this season’s particular severity can be attributed to multiple factors including the type of flu strains, its resistance to the flu vaccine, and the number of strains present this season.
“Influenza A is the strain of flu virus, specifically H3N2 that is resistant to this years flu vaccine,” Dr. Matthew Morvant, a Pharmacist at Braswell Drugs in Covington, said.
Every year, the CDC develops a new vaccine in which they attempt to predict which strain of flu to counteract in the vaccine; however, this year the vaccine is mostly ineffective.
“Efficacy of (this year’s) flu shot is 25%,” Morvant said. “Out of 100 people that get flu shot 75 get sick or have gotten sick this year.”
Also, the CDC is seeing as many cases of H1N1 flu as at the height of the 2009 flu pandemic in U.S.
“Normally, there are only a couple of strains going around, but this year, were seeing multiple strains, sometimes within the same family. And the season started so early, that the strains are mutating and then going back around,” Dr. Jennifer Miles, a family practitioner in St. Tammany Parish for over 18 years, said regarding the flu season.
The CDC says baby boomers have been especially affected by this flu season due to them not being exposed to the specific flu strand (H3N2) when they were younger. Furthermore, the H3N2 strain is especially aggressive compared to other flu strains because it causes an intense immune system reaction, subsequently causing affected people to become sicker and even inflaming lungs and airways. Due to this, people with asthma or diabetes have an even more difficult time fighting the symptoms.
“We’re seeing patients come in with both flu and strep or flu and pneumonia,” Miles said. “By the end of the season, I believe the CDC will end up declaring it the worse flu season in a long time.”
This season has also affected the St. Paul’s student population in different ways than years prior.
“As with all flu seasons, absences are the issue,” Principal Trevor Watkins said. “This year there are a few more but not many, many more. The awkward thing about this flu season, we hear this in the literature, is it seems to be that the symptoms differ from person to person, and it’s hard to put a finger on what is flu.”
St. Paul’s junior Spencer Fox is among those affected by multiple illnesses.
“I had strep three times within the past two months,” Fox said. “I was prescribed Amoxicilin, a type of antibiotic, the first two times I had strep, but I was still feeling the symptoms even after taking the prescription. After this, the doctor gave me a steroid injection and doubled my dose of Amoxicilin.”
The extended length of this flu season, and the multiple strains of flu and other infections on campus, have also taken a toll on the faculty.
“(The season) seems to have gone longer and hit a few more people than usual, and we have been averaging one teacher out a week for the past several weeks,” Watkins said.
According to a report by CNN last week (March 2), the flu season has peaked, but is expected to continue for a few more weeks.
For more information about this year’s flu season and how to protect yourself, visit the CDC’s FAQ page.