The influenza H3N2 strain is more common this year than usual, causing higher rates of contamination.
Although this flu season has been deemed dangerous across the country, so far the number of flu cases at Campus Care at Ohio University are about the same as last year. At this time last year, Campus Care had seen 76 diagnosed cases. For the same period this year, Campus Care has seen 71.
"It seems to be following the same pattern as last year as in we didn’t start seeing very many cases until the last week of January," OhioHealth O'Bleness Hospital Spokesperson Keely Stockwell said in an email.
The U.S. has seen widespread cases of the flu this year, which began earlier than usual, according to The Washington Post.
This year's flu vaccine is less effective than some years' because the H3N2 strain mutates faster.
“H3N2 has reputation for mutating … so (vaccine creators) did not get as good of a match as they usually do,” Athens City Health Commissioner James Gaskell said.
This season’s vaccine creators were unable to match the most contagious strains that are active, but people should still get flu shots. The shot still decreases the severity and length of illness.
There have been 7,353 influenza hospitalizations in Region 1, which includes Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio and Wisconsin, and 241 hospitalizations in the 10-county region Athens is part of, Gaskell said.
“We’re having a pretty severe influenza season,” he said.
The county uses the number of influenza hospitalizations per week to judge severity.
Last year there were 7.3 people hospitalized per 100,000 people in the region. During the same week this year, there were 53.2 people hospitalized per 100,000.
Assistant Professor Jane Balbo, a family medicine physician at Campus Care, suggests that students wash their hands, avoid touching their eyes, noses and mouths after they’ve touched other surfaces, and maintain healthy immune systems to reduce the likelihood of catching the flu.
Students can maintain a healthy immune system by getting enough sleep each night, practicing good nutrition and minimizing substances that can impair their immune systems. Those substances include tobacco, alcohol, marijuana and other recreational drugs, Balbo said.