More than half of the 47 Ohio State students tested for the flu in the first week of classes were found with the illness, demonstrating that a more aggressive virus hitting campus this semester, said Dr. Gladys Gibbs, the director of Ohio State’s Student Health Services.
Of the students tested at the Wilce Student Health Center the first week of Spring Semester, 23 were positive for influenza type A, a serious form that is known to cause the winter outbreaks that usually occur, and two were positive for influenza type B — a less common and less serious form. Negative test results were given to 22 students checked for the flu.
“This year has been a particularly rapid year for the flu,” Gibbs said. “It started earlier, people are getting sicker and it’s not sparing anyone.”
While January is usually prime cold and flu season, Gibbs said the H3N2 strain — a particularly severe strain of the flu — is increasingly combative, with symptoms such as fever, body aches and lethargy.
The strain is more serious in terms of the symptoms it causes, Gibbs said.
“It hits you harder, faster and is more prolonged,” she said. “Your energy level is significantly low, so that you don’t feel like you can do anything, and that’s very tough on college students.”
Gibbs said the flu is common for college-aged adults, adding the good health many 18- to 22- year-olds maintain reduces the risk of fatality.
Dr. Mary Lynn Kiacz, medical director of Student Health Services said students should still get the flu vaccine, even if it does not prevent illness.
“The influenza vaccine is not quite as good of a match this year,” she said. “However, it still offers an advantage, and if you do become ill, you tend to have a less severe case.”
The Centers for Disease Control is the agency that creates the yearly flu vaccine, Gibbs said.
“Every year, the Centers for Disease Control attempt to try and predict from last year, what the more prevalent strains will be,” Gibbs said. “And we don’t always get it right.”
Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story inaccurately stated 25 students were diagnosed with the flu this week. In fact, the students were diagnosed during the first week of class.