By Devon Aragona
and Abbey Nickel
The Cosiano Health Center at the University of Findlay might have zero confirmed cases of the flu so far this flu season, but that doesn’t mean it hasn’t been widespread across the city.
Determined by the Center for Disease Control, this year’s flu virus has been declared an epidemic due to the amount of cases that have been reported.
Since the beginning of October, the Influenza Hospitalization Surveillance Network has had a total of 9,926 laboratory-confirmed influenza-associated hospitalizations that have been reported.
This year’s flu vaccines have also not been as effective as expected, according to Findlay City Health Department Epidemiologist Chad Masters.
“The vaccine wasn’t well matched this season,” said Masters. “This is just not one of the good years.”
Masters, and the CDC, are still encouraging people to get the flu vaccine even if it isn’t as effective as it should be.
“Though it may not prevent the flu fully, the shot will make the symptoms of it much less severe,” Masters says.
The University is administering the vaccine, and encourages students to receive it.
“Between the end of September and now, we have administered 1,530 flu vaccines to faculty and students,” Julie Yingling, director of health services at Cosiano Health Center, “and have had zero confirmed cases of the flu.”
The influenza that is of concern includes symptoms such as coughing, sneezing, aching and respiratory problems.
The transferring of the flu virus can happen as early as one day before we show symptoms and up to seven days after becoming sick.
Michael Kerns, professor of animal science, says that students might have been confusing two different illnesses over the last couple of months. Cryptosporidium, also known as “Crypto,” is a parasite found in food and water that has been contaminated by feces from humans or animals. Crypto causes diarrhea, fever, abdominal cramping and extreme dehydration according to Kerns. But sometimes, the symptoms can be similar to that of the flu, which can create some confusion.
“I think most of the students who were saying they had Crypto over the last couple of months most likely had the flu,” Kerns said.
UF students have contracted Crypto from calves at the animal science facilities in previous years, which Kerns says is because the parasite is common in young calves during the first three weeks of their lives.
After filing a public records request, the Pulse learned that there have been no reported cases of Crypto at the Findlay City Health Department over the last year.
Kerns says there was one confirmed case in a female student last semester, but because she was travelling, the case was not reported to the Findlay City Health Department.
However, Kerns says that hygiene should still be taken seriously, whether you’re trying to avoid something such as the flu or Crypto out at the animal science facilities. Washing your hands and clothes are critical to keeping either illness from spreading.
According to an article on CNN online, this flu season the H3N2 virus strand was found in most of the samples that have been taken from patients. This is similar to a strand H3N2 that dominated in the 2012-2013 flu season.
The groups most at risk for catching the flu: children younger than five, those who are older than 65 and residents in nursing homes. Also, women who are pregnant, and people with specific medical conditions such as asthma, certain blood disorders, those with weakened immune systems due to disease or medication and other conditions that can be checked for on the CDC’s website.
Only hospitalized patients that have been diagnosed with influenza are reported to the CDC to be logged. Cases in the ER or from nasal or rapid tests at the doctors are not reported. According to Masters, so far, there have been no late teens or young adult cases have been reported to them from the CDC.
“All the reported cases we have had in Findlay were of elderly people,” Masters says. “But, with it being cold, and everyone indoors, anything that has people in close quarters puts people at a higher risk,” Masters says.
The flu virus lives on surfaces for up to 24 to 48 hours after an infected person originally touched the surface. Keeping hands clean, and not touching your face is a key to avoiding the germs that spread the virus, according to Masters.
“As general as it seems, washing your hands for an appropriate amount of time is very important,” Masters stresses. “Don’t just splash and go.”