Flu season infects nation, grazes GBN

Nora Smith, Opinions Editor

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The flu board, which describes and compares symptoms of the flu with those of the cold, hangs next to the nurses’ office and gives tips on how to prevent germs from spreading. Head nurse Jessica Matthiesen said she created the flu board because she often receives questions concerning the difference between cold and flu symptoms. Photo by Richard Chu

After three days of chills, migraines and a high fever, junior Nick Maris was admitted to the Glenbrook Hospital. Maris was severely dehydrated and had not eaten for two days. At the hospital, he was put on an IV to provide him with fluids. Despite receiving a flu vaccine, Maris was diagnosed with the flu.

“It was the worst sickness I’ve ever felt,” he said.

Anne Escobar, a health nurse practitioner, said this flu season has been particularly bad because the flu vaccines only cover 10 to 20 percent of the flu strains. This is because the vaccines are made a year in advance, and manufacturers have to “guess” what the flu strains will be in the next season. Their prediction for this season was incorrect, and therefore not all of the major flu strains that spread were covered by the vaccine.

School nurse Jean Yang said she recommends students get the flu shot annually, even if the strain prediction is incorrect.

“It might give them some protection against the flu,” said Yang. “That’s better than no protection at all.”

Yang said she generally tells students to treat the flu with rest and sometimes suggests Advil or Tylenol to relieve symptoms.

Escobar said symptoms of the flu include those of a common cold, such as headaches, body aches and chills along with a fever of 101 degrees Fahrenheit or higher. She suggests fluids and lots of rest to treat the flu.

“People are usually off school for a week,” Escobar said.

Escobar believes this year’s flu season has had a larger impact on Northbrook than in the past. She has seen more flu patients who are sicker than usual. Patients have had higher fevers and longer lasting symptoms. Also, this year more people have had complications such as pneumonia or dehydration, which require hospitalization.

Yang said this year’s flu season has been similar to any other year in the nurses’ office at Glenbrook North.

“It could be that there’s just been less people exposed, … less contact with people who actually have the flu,” said Yang. “Maybe … people are practicing better hygiene and staying away from sick people.”

There are still people contracting the flu, Yang said. In the past, there have been cases through May, and those with symptoms should contact a physician.

“Sometimes they’ll recommend a medication called Tamiflu, which can shorten the course of the flu,” said Yang. “But … the best medicine is prevention.”

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