Flu Outbreak Hits Hockaday

Flu Outbreak Hits Hockaday

FluOutbreakThe flu virus affects students as it spreads throughout the Hockaday community

Sophomore Berkley Wood never gets flu shots, and this year was no excep­tion. But in January, she fell sick and missed three days of school: she had the flu.

“I felt fine on Thursday, but they [the doctors] told me I was contagious until Friday, so I couldn’t come back,” she said.

The flu remains a lurking virus each winter. While cold weather is not the cause of this illness, it is easily spread in the colder months as large groups of people huddle together indoors.

According to KidsHealth, the flu can be spread through contact with contaminated ob­jects, followed by touching of the mouth, nose or eyes.

Most doctors recommend getting a flu shot by October as it takes two weeks to build up the antibodies against the vi­rus, and flu season runs from October to May.

While the shot only pro­tects against certain strains of the flu, there are not many downsides to getting a flu shot, said Dr. Karen Halsell, a pe­diatrician with Pediatricians of Dallas. “Getting the vaccine primes your immune system to recognize the flu virus faster and go into action faster if you do get infected,” she said.

Annually, around 20 per­cent of Americans catch the flu, and thousands of Americans die from the flu. The flu mutates slightly each year, but every 10 years or so, the flu changes sig­nificantly, often resulting in an epidemic or pandemic.

The most recent example was the 2009-2010 H1N1 Influen­za A, also known as swine flu.

Sophomore Rajya Atluri suffered from fatigue, chills, body ache and a sore throat in January despite having got­ten a flu shot. She was sick for about four days.

“My parents are doctors so as soon as I started feeling sick,” she said, “they were wor­ried that it might be the flu, since it was going around, so I took Tamiflu.”

According to the United States Flu Website, the symp­toms of the flu are similar to symptoms of a common cold, but usually more severe. While a runny nose or conges­tion is usually a sign of a com­mon cold they can occur in flu patients as well.

Director of Health Ser­vices Erika Herridge R.N. ex­plained that there are numer­ous struggles with diagnosing and treating the flu.

“The biggest challenge is the various symptoms that can be anything from a simple vi­rus, to a cold, to allergies,” she said, “so it’s really hard to dif­ferentiate between [them].”

The number of patients visiting Texas doctors for flu symptoms have gone up this year in comparison to the past few years.

“The more the news me­dia talks about the scary flu, the busier we [doctors] get,” Halsell said. “We have been extremely busy with flu pa­tients since a couple of weeks before Christmas.”

The best ways to avoid get­ting the flu are washing your hands, getting a flu vaccine and not touching your eyes, mouth or nose. If you do get the flu, early treatment can shut the virus down quickly and staying at home until the doctor clears you as no longer contagious can prevent the spread of the illness.

– Austria Arnold