Fear the Flu?

Eliot Donovan and Adam Coletti

14,000-43,000 People have died from the influenza virus so far this flu season.  The flu season has not been this bad in over a decade, the only season coming close to this season is that of 2009, when a new swine variant was introduced to the population.  The Influenza virus is an infection of the nose, throat, and lungs, also known as the respiratory system.  People are often able to recover from the disease on their own, often with the help of antibiotics.  The disease can turn deadly when complications arise.  These complications are more abundant in very young children and elderly adults or people with pre-existing respiratory issues.  

This year, 46/50 states are reporting high or very high levels of influenza virus.  Hospitalization rates are 9.6 times higher than normal in past years.  This is significant because hospitals are just starting to recover from the covid-19 pandemic.  There are specific strains of the influenza virus that are associated with more severe flu seasons such as the swine variant flu season of 2009.  The strain of influenza that is most abundant this year is the same H3N2 type of the influenza virus A.  This has caused this year to be a more severe flu season resulting in a more severe aftermath.

The nation is just coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic and has lifted the mask mandates in most of its schools.   Not having to wear a mask has been a great freedom for the student body, but at what cost?  Experts believe that the lifting of mask policies has resulted in a less immune social environment where disease can spread more quickly.  Our own school nurse, Paula Butts states, “Masks are not being worn this year and people’s immune systems are down and not as strong.” Our social settings are like mini super spreader events due to our weakened immune systems.  

Things are not all bad though, doctors and influenza analysts report that this year’s flu vaccination is “a very good match.”  In years where the vaccination is not a close match to the dominant flu strain, it is effective 35% of the time.  In years such as this where the vaccine and virus strain are a very good match, the vaccine is upwards of 65% effective.

From an alternate viewpoint, “It is hard to know, as every year around this time we get a lot of flu patients, or it just feels that way,” says local doctor, Rebecca Hill.  Dr. Hill believes that this season is nothing out of the ordinary and does not have any significant meaning in the long run.  Hill goes on to state, “We have to keep in mind that common infections through contact are not unique to us removing our covid guidelines. We take the risk of these illnesses when we are social.”

In conclusion, this year has been a severe influenza season.  This season is hospitalizing patients 9.6 times higher than in past years and has had more deaths than in past years.  Dr. Hill urges us, however, to remember that these illnesses occur naturally and that we naturally risk them every year.  This is not another reason to go into lockdown. We just need to let our immune systems recover in the coming years by carrying on with life as usual.