The wind on the Drillfield is not the only thing that Tech students will be battling this winter.
As the semester begins, Tech prepares to face the 2013 flu season. The season started in October of last year and has yet to reach its peak.
The numbers of people affected continues to accelerate, which is unusual compared to past seasons. With students returning, transmission of the virus is becoming more prevalent.
Prior to returning to school, Schiffert Health Center advised students to get the flu vaccine, whether they have had the flu already or not, to further reduce the spread of the virus. The Schiffert immunization clinic administered vaccines in October, but will continue to offer vaccinations for students with appointments.
While students are still at risk of getting the flu, the elderly have been affected harder than most years, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Of the deaths from this flu season, more than 90 percent were people older than 65, and so far, 29 children have died.
The vaccine has been 62 percent effective in preventing someone from getting the flu, but it does not guarantee protection. With the serious effects on the elderly, there have been shortages across the country of vaccines for people 64 and older, including at the Rite Aid in Blacksburg.
While current total influenza related deaths are unknown and still growing, the CDC estimates the total number of deaths this season will reach 36,000 total, 1,000 higher than the usual average.
Virginia in particular has been seeing increasing influence of the flu recently.
“Over the past three weeks, the number of flu outbreaks reported each week increased from two to 28, and norovirus outbreaks went from three to 11,” said Acting State Health Commissioner Maureen E. Dempsey, MD, FAAP in a Washington Times article.
“The majority of those were in school settings. With so much illness circulating, it’s important that we all do our part to help prevent the spread of disease and to protect those who are most vulnerable to serious complications,” Dempsey said.
With so much interaction in classes, students need to take extra care to avoid transmission.
Symptoms of the flu include a fever, coughing, sore throat, muscle aches, headaches and fatigue, though it differs from a regular cold in that these symptoms come on suddenly. It can also lead to complications such as pneumonia, bronchitis and sinus infections, according to the CDC.
Students and faculty who find themselves with these symptoms are advised to stay at home for 24 hours after their fever is gone except for medical visits; wash hands more frequently; avoid touching their eyes, nose and mouth; and regularly clean frequently touched surfaces.