(Rock Hill, S.C.) — While a number of states, including North Carolina and South Carolina, saw an increase in influenza activity at the beginning of March, the number of flu-like cases at Winthrop University has remained relatively low.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported at least 20 states, including North Carolina and South Carolina, saw their highest level of flu activity at the beginning of the month.
The S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) said flu activity was “widespread” in the state for the week ending March 9. Widespread activity means there were flu outbreaks in at least half of the regions of the state.
However, DHEC said “overall there was a decrease in influenza activity statewide” over the week.
Despite the high activity across the region, the effects of the flu at Winthrop have not been strongly felt.
Mary Jo Barreto, director of health services at Winthrop, said her office has not seen many cases of the flu this season.
“We did not have many flu cases in the fall semester,” said Barreto. “When we came back in January we had 12 and in February 45 students met the criteria for the flu.”
However, “there were a few more that were reported to the Dean of Students that we did not see,” she said. “The onset of the flu this year was just later this year than it has been in previous years.”
The flu season typically begins in October, according to the CDC, and peaks between December and February.
To date, DHEC reports there have been 63 flu-related deaths and 2034 hospitalizations in the state this season. The previous season in South Carolina was relentless, as DHEC reported flu activity was widespread for 11 weeks in a row, including 269 confirmed deaths and 4,144 hospitalizations.
Yet, Barreto said she was not surprised the number of flu cases at Winthrop was down this year.
“It actually did not surprise me, although I was surprised that we did not have a few more than that,” she said. “Some counties up in Tennessee were closing schools, not necessarily universities because of the amount of kids with the flu.”
Ryen Cohen, a sophomore at Winthrop, said the campus numbers may be down because students are taking the flu seriously this year.
“The numbers might be down just because people probably are taking better care of themselves,” said Cohen. “I think people are realizing how serious the flu is.
“They realize that catching the flu is not a game,” she said. “When you catch the flu you feel terrible, you’re going to be more likely to miss out on class, and when you miss out on class you get behind.
“So I think people just kind of want to avoid it at all cost, so they will do whatever it takes to not catch it.”
Barreto said students can protect themselves from getting the flu by getting proper rest, practicing proper handwashing and staying out of other people’s space.
“The most important way to prevent the flu is to get the flu vaccine,” said Barreto. “It’s still not too late to get a flu vaccine.
“It does take two weeks for the flu shot to become effective, so people need to get it if they haven’t,” she said. “They did say that it was a better match this year than it has been in the past.”
The CDC recommends that people who are six months or older should get the flu vaccination on an annual basis.
However, some are still skeptical about the flu vaccine, including Ke’on Barber, a senior history major at Winthrop.
“I’m not exactly sure about the flu shot actually and how affective that is,” said Barber. “I’m not exactly all bought into that flu shot thing, because I haven’t had the flu shot and I’ve never had the flu.”
Barreto said another strain of the flu could potentially extend the flu season this year.
“I just don’t think we’re done with the flu yet,” said Barreto. “I think we are still going to see some numbers coming at us. I think we will see it come again, the B strain in maybe late March (or) early April.”
According to the CDC, the influenza B virus, along with the A virus, are the seasonal strains of the flu that are seen every year throughout the U.S.
Barreto said all students are welcome to come to the Crawford Building for any of their healthcare needs.
“Whether it’s for flu-like symptoms, a urinary tract infection, injuries, whatever, we would love for them to come see us and utilize our services,” said Barreto.
However, some students said they might not visit health services, because they prefer to take care of themselves.
“I would go if it were really really bad,” said Cohen. “If it was something mild, I can handle it myself.”
However, it’s unknown if these types of feelings have significantly affected the number of reported flu cases at Winthrop.