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Athens prepares for flu season

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Winter is well underway, and so is flu season in Athens.

The influenza virus has many strains, although the most common variety is Flu Type A, according to the Center for Disease Control. The CDC reported that the flu hospitalizes 200,000 people in the U.S. annually. The flu is also responsible for around 3,000 deaths each year.

Nursing Supervisor Amanda Fox of Ohio University’s Campus Care said 143 students have been tested for cases of the flu.

“About 37 of them tested positive for the flu,” Fox said. “These results are from July 1 of 2012 to Jan. 21.”

The majority of these cases were Type A.

“Those (cases) were only the ones we tested, we cannot know what types someone may have without testing them,” Fox said.

Fox gave handy tips to avoid contracting the flu, many of which have been commonly advised.

“Wash your hands often. The flu virus can survive for up two hours on surfaces, and you will not be able to know who has coughed or sneezed there before you,” Fox said.

She also advised ill students to skip class to keep other students from getting sick.

Besides just washing hands and avoiding contact with sick individuals, there is a flu vaccine available for purchase. The Athens City-County Health Department provides shots for citizens six months and older, with an appointment scheduled ahead of time. The vaccination is also available from most pharmacies in the area.

The vaccine can be administered in two ways, as either an injection or a nasal spray. Usual side effects include aches, redness around the injection site, and low-grade fever for those who use the flu shot. The spray’s side effects include runny nose, wheezing, headaches, or a cough, according to the CDC.

The vaccine does not provide instant protection. A period of two weeks allows the body to create antibodies based on the shot’s strain. This provides the body defense against the flu, and helps to keep it at bay.

There are strains of the flu that are less common, and thus more deadly. One such variety is the H1N1 virus, also known as the swine flu. Ohio University’s Hudson Health Center provides flu vaccines to prepare citizens against the virus. Symptoms of the swine flu may include fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headaches, chills and fatigue. Some patients also experienced severe diarrhea and vomiting. Swine flu is spread much like the normal flu varieties: contact with infected people and contaminated surfaces.

Health scares involving the flu have occurred throughout the years. One former pandemic threat was the bird flu in the early 2000s. O’Blenness Memorial Hospital released an article about the threat from H5N1, giving advice to prepare citizens. OU Campus Care’s website urges students and citizens to remain calm in case of an emergency caused by a pandemic. The site encourages following the normal health procedures such as making sure to wash hands or use hand sanitizer as often as you can. If someone does happen to fall ill, avoid contact with other people and make the illness known to those around the victim.


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