BY PHONG LY
Flu season is wreaking havoc across the United States. Since last October, there have been over 18,068 laboratory-confirmed cases of Influenza A reported, and the disease has claimed the lives of 53 infants and children, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).
The CDC has rated this year’s flu as “widespread” in 49 states, the most prevalent the virus has been in that many states at once in the past ten years. World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that annual flu epidemics result in about 3 to 5 million cases of severe illness globally and about 300,000 to 650,000 deaths.
Most would think that people usually would not die from a flu, but these statistics say otherwise. So how could such a common illness be so lethal?
According to Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious disease specialist at Vanderbilt University, influenza and its complications mostly affect those ages 65 and older, and that age group accounts for 80 percent of deaths, according to vanderbilt.edu.
But young children and people who have an underlying illness, such as heart disease, lung disease or diabetes, are susceptible to dying from the flu as well, Schaffner said.
There are three common reasons that account for flu-related deaths:
Pneumonia is an infection that causes the small air sacs of the lungs to fill with fluid or pus (purulent material), according to Mayo Clinic. It can cause coughing with pus, fever, chills and difficulty breathing. It claimed the life of a second-grade teacher, Heather Holland, in Texas at the beginning of this year, according to Fox 2.
According to Mayo Clinic, sepsis happens when chemicals released into the bloodstream to fight the infection trigger inflammatory responses throughout the body. This inflammation can trigger a cascade of changes that can damage multiple organ systems, causing them to fail.
Flu stimulates an immune response in everyone’s body, but for some people, this natural response can be “overwhelming,” Schaffner said.
- Heart attack
A new study published by the New England Journal of Medicine found that chances of a heart attack are increased six-fold during the first seven days after a flu infection. The study looked at nearly 20,000 cases of flu in Ontario adults ages 35 and older.
“The most effective way to fight any disease is to make sure you don’t get it in the first place,” said Anna Readman, a sophomore studying neuroscience at Drake.
Readman said she got her flu shot this year and isn’t worried about a thing.
According to WHO, a flu shot is the most effective way to prevent influenza and its complications.
However, some people don’t feel comfortable getting flu shots. Kemi Mugangala, a digital media production major at Drake, is not going to get a flu shot this year. She said she got a flu shot once before, but she didn’t think it did her any good.
“I’m very aware that there is a flu outbreak going on across the nation,” Mugangala said. “I feel like the substances in there would just harm me rather than help me, and one of them would be mercury.”
Mugangala said her way to avoid catching the flu now is just to stay away from people who are sick, stay warm and take advantage of the hand sanitizer dispensers that are placed around campus.
Flu shots are available to students at the American Republic Health Center for $25. Places like Walgreen’s and CVS charge around $30 or more for the seasonal flu shot.