Influenza virus takes toll on students

The flu season comes and goes, but the public is not fully aware of the harm that the Influenza virus can cause. Fifty-eight percent of 226 students who responded to a school-wide survey know of family members who have had Influenza or an Influenza-like illness.

It is difficult to identify the virus as the symptoms resemble to that of typical seasonal illnesses. Influenza is not reportable in Kansas and information on the disease is lacking.

“We have other means of surveillance that we track Influenza illness with. Right now, our influenza surveillance system called ‘Influenza-like System Network’ is showing that 12 percent of all visits to the doctor are due to Influenza-like illnesses,” Influenza Surveillance Coordinator of the Kansas Department of Health and Environment Amie Worthington said.

Vaccines for the current strain of Influenza have proved ineffective and require clinical trials before being released to the public.

Influenza is highly contagious and is easy to spread from person to person. The more students that come to school with the virus, the more students it ultimately affects.

“I feel like that’s why the people with influenza came to school and that’s why it spread so fast; people didn’t recognize it as the flu because it didn’t act like the flu,” sophomore Kelsi Harris said.

The Influenza virus usually takes up to a week for symptoms to subside with the necessary prescribed medication. Despite the critical consequences of the virus, teachers have said that students have come to school and instead they recommend visiting a doctor.

“The strain is impacting a lot of individuals and unfortunately it’s a component of the vaccine that targets that strain is not very good. We’re seeing a lot of illness this season, so it is more severe than the last two seasons,” Worthington said.

11.3 percent of 71 students who responded to the same survey previously mentioned have missed a week or more of school and 88.4 percent have missed one to four days of school. If students are missing that much class time, they can easily fall behind and it could be difficult for them to catch back up.

“If you have a test every four weeks, then that is a quarter of what will be on the test that you’re missing; that is huge. If the students need to watch any clips or videos or anything that you can’t necessarily access on their own, that sets them back significantly,” English teacher Jessica Heidrick said.

Junior Jeana Lyons was absent from school for three days due to her catching the Influenza virus.

“I was very nauseous, I threw up, ran a fever, and I had a cough and runny nose. People need to wash their hands very often to prevent getting sick,” Lyons said.

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