Editorial: Flu Season is Back to Reclaim its Virus-Throne

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It’s beginning to look a lot like flu season, everywhere you go.

With the autumn chill starting to settle in and sweater-weather finally coming into fruition, influenza, which has been living in COVID-19’s shadow for the past year and a half, has come to reclaim its throne.

Coronavirus numbers are finally starting to lower, according to recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Life is gradually beginning to look normal again–knock on wood.

Students are going back to classrooms, employees are heading back to the office and the six-foot gap is starting to close. Which makes now as good a time as any for the spike ball-shaped virus to spread from person to person.

Now don’t start busting out those hazmat suits just yet, because influenza cases seemed to be relatively tame in the southern hemisphere according to Scott Woodside, director of the Wellness Center.

Flu season is starting to wrap up on the other side of the world and how theirs went typically gives health officials insight into the severity of the northern hemisphere’s flu season. 

However, studies show that mild flu seasons are usually followed by more severe ones. According to Woodside, health officials have been urging the public to take the pandemic and the flu season seriously for the past two winters. Some called it a “twindemic.”

“We [health officials] love scary words,” Woodside said.

Coronavirus guidelines, like masking and social distancing, help stop the spread of COVID as well as the spread of influenza. However, since restrictions are beginning to relax, health officials fear that could lead to a spike in flu cases. 

“My recommendation to all is to be prepared for what could be a difficult flu season,” Woodside said. “My hope is that the measures we have in place for COVID continue to protect us from influenza.”

The fact of the matter is that there is no Magic 8-Ball when it comes to figuring out what kind of flu season the year will bring. In fact, because of the pandemic, health officials are starting to see respiratory diseases they don’t usually see this time of year, like respiratory syncytial virus (RSV). 

RSV cases don’t usually start to appear until the winter months and it typically affects younger children. However, Rowan started to report cases among students as early as September and early October. RSV cases have gone down since, but it is a testament to how unpredictable viruses have become since the pandemic began, according to Woodside.

“Things are all out of whack and we really can’t predict with any certainty a season or a time frame,” he said. “We don’t know how these other respiratory viruses are going to behave, in the wake of a pandemic where a lot of variables have changed.”

However, Rowan University is offering one form of protection when it comes to the flu.

A flu vaccine.

The word “vaccine” seems to be the word of the year. From the COVID vaccine to its boosters, another needle to the arm may seem daunting to some people. Vaccinations have never been more of a hot topic than they are right now, but why should you consider getting your flu shot?

Well for starters, the Wellness Center’s flu shot clinic is free for staff and students every Monday from 10 a.m to 2 p.m. in the Owl’s Nest located in the Student Center.

The clinic will run until Nov. 22. To date, they have administered 325 vaccines.

“It’s important for the Rowan community to receive the flu vaccine because it helps to mitigate the spread of the flu,” said Brittany Auleta, coordinator of healthy campus initiatives.

While break-out cases are not as common among vaccinated individuals, the news has taught us that it is not impossible. There have been reports that people have caught COVID and the flu at the same time. Getting the vaccine will lower your chances of having to deal with that headache.

“Getting the flu isn’t fun and the potential of getting the flu and COVID simultaneously could cause serious health concerns,” Auleta said.

Ultimately, getting the flu shot is up to you. However, with the upcoming holiday season coming up–which brings lots of parties and family gatherings–getting the jab may bring some extra protection and peace of mind.

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