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Flu Season Ravages Roanoke

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Photo Courtesy of Liberty Distributors

Article Written by Sarah Joseph

Flu season is here, and Virginia has been identified as one of eight states with widespread flu cases, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Flu also is rampant at Roanoke College, where some professors have been cancelling class in order to halt the further spread of the illness.

About 75 percent of students who have came into health services in the past three weeks have been diagnosed with the flu or have had flu-like symptoms, said Katie Parrish, a nurse practitioner for Roanoke’s Health Services.

Colleges and universities are particularly vulnerable to viruses spreading quickly as students live in close quarters. Especially as Roanoke is a majority residential college, this close community is less able to isolate viruses. College students are more susceptible to the flu as lack of sleep, heavy drinking, and smoking are three major factors that could lead to catching the flu according to the Richmond Department of Health.

According to Sarah Fenno, Virginia’s Influence Surveillance Coordinator, this year’s flu vaccine is a good match for the flu strain this season.

Parrish said “a handful of students” who got the flu had gotten a shot previously. However, a majority of the students who did not get shots caught the flu.

It takes about two weeks for the vaccine to be effective, so anyone who is hoping to beat the flu by getting a vaccine now may not completely prevent the flu. However, getting the vaccine helps to make the flu strain less severe and reduces the amount of work the body’s antibodies must undertake to fight the virus off, said Fenno.

To prevent catching the flu, Dr. Gonzalo Bearman, the medical director of infection prevention at VCU Health, suggests a few things on the Richmond webpage: Get enough sleep as it is vital to helping strengthen your immune system, wash your hands particularly before you eat, cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze, and stay home if you’re not feeling well.