Have you heard a sniffle or a cough recently? Maybe you started feeling a little bit under the weather. That’s because it’s everyone’s least favorite season: flu season.
If you thought you noticed more sick people than usual walking around campus, you’re not wrong. Sherry Bell from the University Health Services confirms that the flu is on the move at UT, with a drastic increase in confirmed cases recently. The number of confirmed cases of the flu rose from seven cases the week of Jan. 7 to 133 cases just this past week. Considering that these cases only include students who report symptoms to UHS, everyone at UT should be on guard, either by wearing masks, stockpiling tissues or just staying home.
“Get a flu shot,” Bell said. “You may have heard that this year’s vaccine is not as effective as hoped, but it still offers protection and can lessen your symptoms.”
This year’s flu vaccine has reportedly only been 10 percent efficient at preventing the flu in Australia, although the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that it’s still much to early to tell. Even so, this early number is significantly less than normal, as past years’ vaccines were about 39 percent effective at prevention on average. Whether there was a mismatch in the vaccine strain or this year’s flu is just plain nasty, current levels of the flu are now at 6.6 percent — the highest it’s been since the 2009 swine flu pandemic. If we want to stunt the spread of this on campus, we need to take it as seriously as possible since there’s no sign of this year’s flu season ending any time soon.
It is just the start of peak flu season, and hospitals are already becoming overwhelmed with flu patients. Grace Jiang volunteers at the Emergency Department at Dell Children’s Medical Center and has seen dozens of cases of the flu in a single 4-hour shift.
“Just the other night, the wait to see a nurse was over five hours, and the line to even get checked in stretched down the hallway. The flu was everywhere.” Jiang said.
These statistics are enough to spike concern throughout the United States and especially at UT, where we spend most of our days surrounded by hundreds of different people. Not only are we more susceptible to the flu on campus, we’re more likely to go to class while still sick. At such a competitive school, many students value their attendance records and academic performance above rest and recovery.
However, it is vital that sick students stay home. At the very least, wear proper protection on campus to protect fellow students. We all understand the need to be in class, but if you find yourself coughing your lungs out, the Forty Acres Pharmacy in the Student Services Building has face masks for sale.
UHS should make masks and tissues available in bathrooms around campus or along popular walking routes. Maybe it’s also time for HealthyHorns to force hand sanitizer on passersby once again.
Before UT administration can take action, we as students need to protect ourselves. For those who have not been vaccinated, now is the time. For those who have, tissues and soap are your new best friend.
Jackie Le is an accounting sophomore from Plano.