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Clemson sees increase in flu cases

Graphic by Caroline Dillard, News Layout Editor
flu infographic

Flu season is at its peak, and Clemson University has seen even more cases than usual this year. Redfern Health Center has seen 463 cases of the flu as of Feb. 15.
“In the past couple of years, we’ve probably seen on a typical day during the flu season 10-15 cases. This year we had several days where it was over 30,” Executive Director of Student Health Services Dr. George Clay said. “We went for probably the past couple of weeks where it was 20 to 30 to up to nearly 40 at the peak. It looks like the cases are beginning to diminish … Spring Break typically breaks the cycle for us.”
Clay said that it’s important for students to get a flu shot to protect themselves.
“It greatly increases the probability that the person who’s immunized will not get the flu and therefore will not be able to spread it to others,” Clay said. “It also greatly reduces the likelihood that someone would have serious complications from the flu.”
Clay said that as of Feb. 15, Redfern has administered 1,578 vaccines. However, some students are hesitant to get the flu vaccine.
“What we hear from students is there’s the misconception that if you get the flu shot, you’re going to get some symptoms of the flu,” Clay said. “That is generally not the case. Most people tolerate the vaccine very well.”
Clay added that some students are “hesitant to get the vaccine around the midterms because they think it might make them sick, and it would undermine their performance especially during the exam season.” 
Clay also said that it’s important for students to wash their hands, cover coughs and sneezes and stay home when they’re sick.
“Classes … and the social life of the students are kind of [what] make it [college campuses] an ideal climate for flu to spread pretty quickly.”
Clay said that Redfern implemented the “Flu Surge Plan” at the beginning of the semester to help curb the number of flu cases and provide better treatment.
“Once the number of cases hits eight in a day … we go into ‘Flu Surge’, which means we really focus and we reorganize our patient flow to be able to take care of the sick,” he said. “[We] defer some of the stuff that … can be delayed without problems like a routine physical exam … We just get all hands on deck to take care of the sick students.”
According to a report from the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC), there were 7,352 influenza cases (7,244 positive rapid antigen detection tests; 108 lab confirmed tests) reported from Feb. 5 to Feb. 11 across the state. That number is up by more than 2,000 cases from the previous week.
Since October 2, 2016, 27,554 influenza cases (27,006 positive rapid antigen detection tests; 548 lab confirmed tests) have been reported, and a total of 16 people have died across the state, including three deaths in the Upstate, according to DHEC.
“We’ve not had too many of our students hospitalized this year,” Clay said. “That’s been good even though the flu seems to have hit the college student population pretty hard.”
Clay said flu vaccines are still available and that it’s not too late to get vaccinated.
“Even for someone who gets the flu shot and then is exposed a few days or week later they may still get the flu but it’s going to be a lot less severe,” Clay said. “Having the antibodies stirred up is very protective of the serious complications that might come about otherwise.”

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