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The Greyhound

The Greyhound

The Student News Site of Loyola University Maryland

The Greyhound

What to Know About the 2022 Flu Season

What to Know About the 2022 Flu Season

The COVID-19 pandemic began more than two years ago and Baltimore City Health Commissioner Dr. Letitia Dzirasa already has a new priority at her forefront, the flu. Her representative, Adina Greenbaum, a physician at the Baltimore Health Department, indicated the situation has become urgent.

“We’ve had significant increases in flu rates, RSV rates and COVID in the last few months and it is concerning… We are starting to see hospitals being burdened just like they were with COVID, only this time with the flu,” Greenbaum said. With the flu arriving earlier than planned, many people were caught off guard.   

“We’re in close contact with our hospital partners and are definitely seeing a lot in terms of respiratory illnesses. This is something we are closely monitoring,” Greenbaum said.

To combat the spread of the flu, the state of Maryland created MDH Fluwatch. This is an influenza surveillance reporting website, brought to you by the Center for Infectious Disease Surveillance and Outbreak Response at the Maryland Department of Health (MDH).

As of now, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi and Tennessee have the highest influenza rates in the entire country. Maryland itself also sits high on the list regarding flu activity levels. 

From Oct. 1, 2022, through Nov. 21, 2022, the CDC estimates that there has been between 2.8 to 6.6 million flu cases in the country. That is broken down further to roughly 3 million flu related medical cases, 23,000-48,000 flu hospitalizations and, 1,300-3,600 flu deaths nationwide. 

Last year, the overall burden of influenza from 2021-2022 was 9 million flu illnesses, four million flu-related medical visits, 100,000 flu-related hospitalizations and 5,000 deaths. Because the flu season is not nearly finished, it is hard to confidently predict that this year’s flu will be worse in comparison to last years, but experts say they are seeing a troubling trend. 

Greenbaum addressed the plan that is now in effect.

“Right now, we must remain calm and do what we can to help reverse this pattern we are starting to see. Usually, the flu hits Maryland around December, but this year we started seeing the spike before Halloween,” Greenbaum said.

Greenbaum encouraged residents of Baltimore City to do their part. For example, she recommended that everyone get a flu shot.

“Doing this would help lessen the number of extreme cases which require an individual to go to the hospital and therefore, keep a hospital bed open. Additionally, people should stay up to date with their Covid shots,” Greenbaum said. “We’re noticing that when a person tests positive for one of the illnesses, they are more likely to contract the other, as well.” 

Regarding what a college student could do to reduce the risk of contracting the flu, Greenbaum said, “students should make sure to wash their hands often. It is one of the simplest, yet most effective ways to keep yourself and others safe.” 

Another thing college students can do is change their clothes when they get home. Students should work to avoid bringing home bacteria from shared seats, Greenbaum said. That will help protect your roommates.

 “I also must reiterate the importance of getting the flu and Covid vaccine. Sometimes at school, especially colleges, it can be hard to isolate yourself. Because of this, it is especially important that you get vaccinated to protect not only yourself but your peers. Also, it should go without saying that if you can avoid a large gathering, you should,” Greenbaum said.

 Greenbaum also offered recommendations for students who aren’t feeling well or have a flu diagnosis.

 “The first and most important thing one can do is stay home. It’s important for people to respect those around them and be diligent. Another thing I would recommend is that people change their toothbrush after they start feeling better. Although it sounds silly, it makes a big difference.”

Experts are concerned but say they are ready for the challenges on the horizon. With this flu season seeming more lively then previous years, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has released its  Influenza Surveillance Report. In order to keep college students informed and safe, users can visit this webpage and interact with this tool and get weekly influenza activity reports by state and even nationwide. Greenbaum emphasized that each student can take steps to protect themselves and others.

“We want everyone to get their flu vaccine for this year, even if you got it last year. The flu-shot does not give you the flu and it can prevent you and others from getting sick, but more importantly will help you avoid becoming severely sick.”

Featured Image courtesy of Christopher Warren.

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What to Know About the 2022 Flu Season