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Denton County reporting higher flu rates than national average

Denton County reporting higher flu rates than national average

The UNT Student Health and Wellness Center offered free flu vaccinations to students last semester. Though they do not have any more for this semester, students can use their zip code online to find a nearby administrator.

Denton County reporting higher flu rates than national average
January 20
16:22 2018

Denton County reported an increase in influenza activity in 2018, with 262 positive flu tests as it entered the new year. The season’s flu vaccine has proven less effective than usual and Denton County is reporting more flu cases than the national average.

Approximately 35% of tests administered in the county were positive, compared to around 25% at the national level, according to Denton County Influenza Surveillance. This year’s flu has proven to be especially dangerous, with two deaths in Denton County already being attributed to the virus.

Multiple nurses and practitioners from the UNT Health and Wellness Center have contracted the flu as well. These staff members were vaccinated in the fall when UNT provided free flu vaccinations for over 1700 students, Kerry Stanhope, assistant director of the UNT SHWC, said, but still contracted the flu.

A nurse puts on gloves at the UNT Student Health and Wellness Center. Mallory Cammarata

This year’s most prevalent strain of the flu, H3N2, has the ability to quickly mutate which allows it to infect individuals who may be vaccinated. According to estimates from the CDC, the flu vaccine is only approximately 33% effective against H3N2, compared to about 60% effectiveness against other A strains and about 50% effectiveness against B strains.

Stanhope explained that while the flu vaccine is put together from statistical models based off the previous season’s flu data, it is only a ‘best guess’ for what strains will be most prevalent this year. Most vaccines are composed of about three to four strains, like the version UNT administered in the fall, which was made up of two A strains and two B strains.

The difficulty with H3N2 is that it quickly adapts into different variations of the strain, which decreases the effectiveness of the vaccine.

For students looking to prevent the flu, receiving the vaccine is still one of the best ways to stay healthy. Stanhope explained that while the vaccine may not prevent all strains of the flu, it helps your body to start processing antibodies, as well as build up immunity and protection. This results in a quicker recovery and less severe symptoms. Stanhope stated that most vaccinated staff members were able to return to work within 2-4 days.

Though the UNT Student Health and Wellness Center is out of flu vaccinations for this semester, students can use their zip code online to find a nearby administrator. Mallory Cammarata

UNT will not be administering any more vaccines this semester, but there are many places throughout Denton that offer the vaccine. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website uses an individual’s zip code to locate the nearest flu vaccine administrator. The vaccine takes around 2 weeks to build up protection, so students who plan to vaccinate should do so quickly.

Students already experiencing flu-like symptoms should remain home, limit exposure, and get lots of rest. Stanhope suggested students should be seen by the SHWC or by another doctor so they can receive antivirals. These antivirals are typically only effective when administered within the first two days, but help to prevent severe symptoms. Students experiencing high fever over multiple days, an inability to keep down food or symptoms of dehydration should seek medical help immediately.

Featured Image: The UNT Student Health and Wellness Center offered free flu vaccinations to students this past semester. Though they do not have any more for this semester, students can use their zip code online to find a nearby provider. Mallory Cammarata

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Katharine Beal

Katharine Beal

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