February 15, 2019 | 34° F

High rates of influenza affect class participation at U.

Photo by Wikimedia |

Flu vaccines help reduce the duration and symptoms of influenza — a sore throat, stuffy nose and body aches — while decreasing the risk of flu-related deaths among pregnant women, people over 65 and other high-risk individuals.

New Jersey joins 26 U.S. states, districts and territories experiencing high rates of influenza-like illness during its most widespread year in more than a decade.  

Records reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report an increase of 44,000 influenza-related deaths — where seasonal infection was likely a contributor to the cause of death but was not necessarily the primary cause — between 2011 and 2013, according to Rutgers Today. 

In the last three weeks, there has been a spike in positive laboratory tests throughout the state, particularly in northern and central New Jersey, with an increase in reported absences at schools, workplaces and emergency department visits for influenza-like illnesses, said Alfred Tallia, chair of the Department of Family Medicine and Community Health at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, in an interview with Rutgers Today. 

Rutgers Student Affairs reported that more than “20 percent of Rutgers students report missed assignments and lower grades due to colds and flu.”

The H3N2 influenza virus — 1 of 3 predominant subtypes of the Influenza A — is a leader in influenza-related cases this year. Influenza viruses, such as this one, can mutate rapidly and often times, offer a different variant, or group of, right around flu season each year. 

"Influenza A strains such as H3N2 and other subtypes causing this year’s illnesses tend to be the strains that cause more severe illness,” Tallia said. "Most epidemics are due to Influenza A strains. Many Influenza A strains originate in other animals, mutate and infect humans.”

Vaccinations have an estimation between 10 and 30 percent effectiveness, Tallia said. 

Even so, he recommends that individuals who have not been administered the flu vaccine still get it. Despite its lack of effectiveness compared to previous years, it helps reduce symptoms and flu duration. Immunity takes approximately two weeks, during which good hygiene — washing hands and coughing into sleeves — can be reinforced. 

While children and people over 65 are most vulnerable, the flu can have complications or be fatal to people of all ages," Tallia said. “Women who are pregnant and people with diabetes and other chronic illnesses are also as vulnerable as children and the elderly. Fortunately, with vaccination, many people can be spared the misery associated with this disease, and vaccination is recommended for all ages.”

Free flu vaccines are offered at a number of locations on campus including the College Avenue Student Center, Bush Student Center and Hurtado Health Clinic. For a full list of locations, students can visit Rutgers Today.com. 

Christian Zapata

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