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Mutations cause scares for 2014 flu season

Belmont University Health Services ran out of flu shots this year during one of the reportedly worst flu seasons in recent memory.

“This has been a scary year; the media has reported more about this flu and in turn people are getting worried,” said Katy Wilson, the director of health services.

The clinic vaccinated about 1,000 students and employees. More students got their vaccination this year due to the scare of the high fatality rate this flu has caused. In the week ending on Jan. 18, eight flu-related deaths had been reported in children. No full numbers are available for adult deaths, but the Centers for Disease Control estimates between 3,000 and 49,000 people die from the flu or flu-related illness.

Health Services was not prepared for the rush and ran out of flu shots relatively early in the season and couldn’t get any more. This was the first time they ran out of flu shots.

The clinic places its order for vaccinations prior to each season. They base the number of vaccinations to order on the number of vaccinations given out the flu season prior.

“The virus changes or mutilates every season and that is why students need to get vaccinated every year,” said Wilson.

When there isn’t a bad flu season, most people don’t get vaccinated. This causes the following flu season to be worse due to the adaptive qualities of the virus.

“Students, normally, tend to not get their flu shots because they think they will never get sick,” said Wilson.

The strain of flu this season is predominantly swine flu, also known as H1N1, and is a distant relative to the bird flu. It is a “potent flu” according to Wilson.

This particular string of flu has been affecting people ages 20-30 much worse than everyone else for unknown reasons. The media has reported on numerous fatalities.

“I have never gotten my flu shot. I always just wash my hands throughout the day and use hand sanitizer like my life depends on it. I also take a daily vitamin and that seems to help,” said Jessica Martin, a sophomore English major.

Symptoms for the H1N1 flu begin just like a common cold. It starts with a cough or a sore throat and progresses from there. Before you know it, there’s a fever, an achy body, headaches and a hacking cough.

The flu is extremely contagious and spreads from person to person through coughing, sneezing and touching objects that have been touched by someone with the flu. If infected, immediately go to Health Services for the antiviral medication.

“This particular flu’s symptoms seem to get worse quickly,” says Wilson.

Since Health Services ran out of vaccinations, Wilson is now sending students and employees to the clinics at Walgreens or Kroger.

To avoid this year’s strained of the flu follow these preventative measures:  

Wash your hands often with soap and water and avoid close contact with people who have a cold for precautionary measures.

Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth and, as always, cover your nose and mouth when you sneeze or cough.

Get your annual vaccination; it takes up to two weeks to develop immunity.

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