As the flu continues to spread around campus, students and faculty are trying their best to avoid contracting the virus.
Dr. Timothy Dowling, the director of Student Health Services (SHS) at the university, said that the intensity of the flu’s prevalence was unsurprising to the health community.
He explained that the flu season’s effects were foreshadowed in Australia, a country whose flu season ends when the United States’ begins.
“For both the country and the state, this has probably been the worst flu season that we’ve seen in at least ten years,” Dowling said.
In anticipation of the busy flu season, students and faculty were encouraged, beginning in the fall semester, to get the flu shot at SHS, Dowling added.
“This was the first year that we actually went through all of our flu shots, so we actually ordered more,” he said.
According to Dowling, the flu shots were estimated to be about 33 percent effective against this year’s predominant strain, which is only slightly less effectiveness than the flu shots in years past.
Fortunately, Dowling said the H1N1 or “swine flu” strain, which wreaked havoc on the Delaware campus in 2009, has been of little concern this season.
The strain that has caused the most issue this flu season has been the H3N2 variety.
The H3N2 strain decreases the effectiveness of the flu shots because of its tendency to “drift” when incubated in chicken eggs during the process of making flu vaccines, Dowling explained.
When the virus drifts, parts of its genetic makeup change, making the flu shot produced to oppose the virus less effective.
Some factors can increase the risk of a person contracting the flu, Dowling added.
“Stress has been shown to decrease your immune response to fighting off illnesses,” he said. “Things that add to stress are not getting enough sleep, not eating proper foods, not getting exercise and psychological stress.”
Emily Doris, a junior studying international relations and Spanish, was not sure if she had the flu when she woke up with a fever and body aches one Thursday morning, so she went to class anyway.
“By the weekend, I was very sure,” she said.
Doris ended up going to a emergency walk-in clinic that Sunday morning, where she was diagnosed with the flu.
Almost a week later, she said she feels much better and has been able to resume most of her activities.
“I’ve been able to go to my classes since Wednesday, I only missed 3 days of classes,” Doris explained.
She said she still has cold-like symptoms and fatigue, but is in much better condition than when she first got sick.
Doris believes she contracted the flu virus from her close friends or classmates, since she did not get the flu shot herself but some around her did, such as her roommates.
“My whole apartment was sick,” she added.
Looking back, Doris said she wishes she had gotten the flu shot and done more to prevent becoming sick.
Now in the end of her illness, she said she is trying to prevent spreading the virus on to anyone else by washing her hands and covering her cough.
Dowling emphasized these and other key points in preventing the spread of the virus around campus.
Along with frequent hand washing, staying hydrated and covering coughs, Dowling explained the importance of wearing masks this flu season.
“We want to normalize wearing mask during a flu season or outbreak like this because it will help protect everybody and decrease the spread of the flu,” he said.
Dowling also highlighted the importance of self-quarantine, encouraging students or faculty experiencing signs of the flu such as fever and cough to stay home.
“The biggest thing is, if you think you have the flu, stay home,” he said.