We all know the usual tips for avoiding sickness: wash your hands, cover your cough, eat healthy and stay active. But with this year’s influenza virus, sometimes the usual isn’t enough. That’s why if you’re feeling sick, you need to stay home. Whether that means missing work, skipping class or cancelling other plans it is best for all — including yourself — to stay home. Avoid going to any grocery stores, libraries or restaurants so you don’t spread the germs.
This year’s influenza strain is causing an epidemic and infecting thousands. “Toughing it out” and wandering into public is not only highly discouraged, it’s incredibly irresponsible. By venturing out into the world while ill, you risk infecting others, furthering the epidemic and endangering lives.
Dr. Daniel B. Jernigan, the director of the influenza division at the Center of Disease Control (CDC), estimates that this year’s flu epidemic will look similar to those of the 2014-2015 flu year. Around 34 million Americans were infected with the flu, 710,000 were hospitalized and roughly 56,000 died as a result of contracting the disease.
Although the flu is usually most severe for older adults and younger children, this year’s strain is breaking away from the normal patterns. Everyone is at risk of catching the virus, from healthy marathon runners like California’s Katie Denise Oxley Thomas to bodybuilders like Pittsburgh’s Kyler Baughman.
The reason this year’s flu strain is so deadly is because the dominant virus, H3N2, is “usually the most lethal of seasonal strains,” according to New York Times writer Donald McNeil Jr. The CDC’s estimation that flu cases had peaked during the week between Christmas and New Years Day has proven inaccurate. It seems to just be getting started, probably because of “kids returning to school,” as Jernigan noted.
Medical centers across the nation have seen spikes in visitations concerning flu-like symptoms. Hospitals trying to keep up with the surges and keep vaccines in stock and student health centers at many universities are struggling with the number of students flocking in to receive “sick notes” in order to stay home and rest.
Thankfully, MSU is encouraging students with influenza-like symptoms to “remain home for self-care.” In an email to faculty on Jan. 25, Provost Robert Mokwa affirmed that “sick notes” would not be required in order for possibly infected students to miss class.
Not only does this measure help relieve some of the pressure put on the University Health Partners in writing sick notes and thus freeing up time to check on students with more severe symptoms, but this move also helps reduce the spread of the virus. Hopefully, by not requiring sick students to attend class, the fatal flu outbreak will miss hitting MSU too hard.
It is clear this flu season will be a deadly one, but each of us can do our part to deter the spread of disease. Wash your hands thoroughly, cover your cough and drink lots of liquids. But most importantly? If you’re sick, stay home.