By Kaitlyn Sills and Gene Crunk
Cases of the flu have already begun popping up in the Lafayette, Oxford and University community and local wellness professionals are expecting a longer and more severe season this year.
Flu season typically begins to peak in the months spanning from October to March. However, local doctors have already reported cases so far this season.
The Mississippi Department of Health calls the flu a “symptomatic illness that can result in high fever, aches and pains, fatigue, and chest discomfort,” according to their website. People can guard against the flu by getting the flu vaccine, taking every day hygienic steps to prevent the spread of germs, and taking antivirals if prescribed by a doctor.
Alex Langhart, director of the Ole Miss Student Wellness Center, said the most effective preventive measure is to get the flu shot. He believes students should get the flu shot as soon as it becomes available.
Celia Roberts, lead nurse at Lafayette Middle School, said that the number of flu have increased since the schools stopped giving flu shots.
“I can see a difference in immunized kids,” she said. “They’re the ones who don’t get sick, or if they do it’s not as severe.”
Other ways to reduce chances of getting sick are to avoid touching eyes, nose or mouth, staying home when sick and basic hygiene. It’s also important to make sure that you avoid contact with anyone if you get sick yourself.
“Stay home, except to seek medical care,” Langhart said. He says this “will reduce the spread of the illness to others.”
Roberts warns that “children spread illnesses more rapidly at school than at home. She says to “think of the entire population when you or your child has the flu.”
Local elementary schools encourage the “24-hour rule” regarding sick students returning to school. If a student has not had symptoms for 24-hours, they are considered safe to return to class.
Langhart says university students can get flu shots at the School of Pharmacy or the Student Health Center. Local pharmacies and medical clinics also offer flu shots.