Flu outbreak infects Pierce campus, local community

Dana Montevideo and Nyadeng Mal, Managing Editor and Reporter

The winter flu has hit Pierce College.

Pierce College officials sent an email on Jan. 10 warning students and faculty of the influenza outbreak.

“To prevent flu outbreaks both personally and with your work group, health professionals recommend that you get a flu shot, wash your hands frequently, cover coughs and sneezes, and stay home if you are sick,” the email said.

There have also been reports of the Norovirus circulating Pierce College Puyallup and Pierce County, as stated in the email.

Some professors have noticed students have been missing class at a higher rate than average.

Professor Raj Lal has noticed five or six students in the past week missing class.

Lal mentioned they’ve barely missed any classes, and suspects it could be due to the flu. However, he isn’t sure.

Pierce student Zakarih Swanson was absent two days this quarter due to contracting the flu.

“I went to Good Samaritan Hospital. I waited like an hour and half to be seen. It was also midnight and the emergency room was packed,” Swanson said.

Although Swanson fell behind on some assignments he was able to sort things out with his professors. He is grateful for their support.

“All my professors were really understanding and seemed genuinely concerned. Nathalie (Tomaszewski) even hugged me when I came back,” Swanson said.

Swanson sought medical help in the early stages of his illness, which enabled him to recover smoothly.

“I’ve had the flu before and this time felt no different, I know some people have had more serious cases so I think I’m lucky,” Swanson said. “I’m feeling better, the doctor just recommended that I drink lots of water and get a good amount of sleep.”

Swanson is back at school and is slowly making a recovery.

Pierce student Evan Upchurch also had to miss a few days of classes.

He woke up one Sunday morning, vomiting. He was unable to get out of bed for the following two days and suffered a fever.

“My head felt like warm soup,” Upchurch said, referring to his fever.

Upchurch said missing class was horrible, and it took him three days to recover. He believes he caught the Norovirus, a stomach illness that causes vomiting and diarrhea.

This  season’s influenza outbreak has taken over the continental United States, being the first outbreak to cover the entirety of the U.S., excluding Hawaii, officials say.

Flu activity varies season to season, some more severe than others.

This 2017-2018 season, the strain influenza A(H3N2) has been detected worldwide and has been most frequently identified.

“It’s looking a lot like the activity from 2014-2015 and from 2012-2013,” Dan Jernigan, director of the Influenza Division in the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, said in a CDC interview. “Both of those seasons were seasons where the strain H3N2 was the predominant strain, a strain that’s going to be associated with more cases and it’s going to be associated with more hospitalizations, and it is associated with more deaths.”

The Washington state influenza update from the Washington state Department of Health has verified 86 lab-confirmed deaths for the 2017-2018 reports.

According to the CDC, 30 deaths from September to January have occurred in children across infected areas.

The flu has reached its peak this month in Spokane County, as recorded from the Washington state influenza update. Since September, 335 lab-confirmed hospitalizations have occurred in that area.

The Washington state DOH recommends that everyone get a flu shot this season if they have not yet.

“Each year, the strains included in the vaccine are based on the flu activity across the world. This year’s vaccine is available in the trivalent and quadrivalent forms. The trivalent will include three vaccine strains: H1N1 and H3N2, which are both A strains, and B Victoria. The quadrivalent vaccine will include the three strains in the trivalent vaccine as well as the B Yamagata strain,” Dipali Pathak, assistant director of communications, wrote for Baylor College of Medicine at the start of the flu season.

However, officials recommend avoiding the nasal spray vaccine, as they are concerned about its effectiveness. The less-effective flu vaccine this season has resulted in a large population showing up to hospitals with symptoms.

“In addition to being associated with increased severity, H3N2 seasons also are associated with vaccine effectiveness that is lower than what we usually see against H1NI or influenza B viruses,” Jernigan said.

Jernigan reported that in the week of Jan. 12 there had been 22.7 hospitalizations per 100,000 people. In comparison to the week before, 13.7 hospitalizations, it has almost doubled.

“Flu seasons every year are bad so there’s never a mild flu season,” Jernigan said. “This season is on that more severe side. We don’t know exactly where it’s going to end up, but the indicators from 2014-2015, we have not quite reached those yet, but it’s going to be — this is a bad flu season.”

Hospitalizations have been most common among adults over 65 and also in adults ranging from 50-60. Children are also to be kept a close eye on, as they are similarly susceptible to the virus.

Symptoms of the flu include difficulty breathing, pain or pressure to the chest, sudden dizziness, confusion, persistent vomiting and a fever paired with sore throat or cough. Officials recommend staying home if anyone experiences these symptoms.

The Puyallup Post is the award-winning news media of Pierce College Puyallup in Puyallup, Washington. Copyright The Puyallup Post 2018. Find us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Youtube @thepuyalluppost

Flu outbreak infects Pierce campus, local community

by Dana Montevideo time to read: 4 min