Parasitic flu makes its danger known

Widespread winter influenza forces Minnehaha students to deal with extreme consequences

“Carly was one of the most caring, kind, fun-loving and outgoing girls I have ever met,” said freshman Lucy Awe.

Awe lost a good friend, Carly Christenson, to the flu on Jan. 9.

“I never saw Carly without a smile on her face and she was always up for something new,” said Awe. “She was never one to exclude you from the group and always made everyone feel welcome. She would do anything she could just to make sure a friend was okay. She was just a very genuine girl with a huge heart.”

Christenson, 14, as well as Max Schwolert, 17, (visiting family in Wisconsin) died with flu-like complications. Schwolert died 29 Dec. 2012 fighting influenza, pneumonia and a staph infection. Both Christenson and Schwolert were strong, healthy teens.

So how did they succumb to the flu?

The flu is a parasite.

“It needs to have some other type of living organism that it feeds off of,” said science teacher Carmella Whaley. “Some viruses infect human cells, some viruses infect bacteria…different strains of viruses differ in their genetic material. For many viruses their mechanism is such that every time they replicate within a living host cell, they grab a little bit of that host’s DNA and then put some host protein on their surface.”

Due to this parasite, the flu season was officially declared an epidemic, causing terror and panic throughout it’s path. So many people have received and many more would like a flu shot. The shot is so high in demand that some states have faced high demand and slow production. The flu shot has proven to lessen sickness (if a person does get the flu), but this year things seem to be different.

In Dec. 2012 the flu season exhibited its strength in 47 out of 50 states. These 47 states experienced a widespread, rapid increase of flu cases. California, Mississippi and Hawaii were the three that experienced a slow increase. The flu’s ruthless attack has lead the flu-related death toll in Minnesota to reach 127, this number compared to the average of 30-40.

The virus was expected to affect people ages five and younger, ages 65 and older, as well as people with other health situations such as diabetes mellitus, cerebral palsy, etc.

Junior Tom Weber believes the flu shot is a good idea.

“Getting the flu shot is a no-brainer. I have anxiety when it comes to flu shots, but just remember that the flu hurts a hundred times more.”

Sophomore Hans Carlson was tested positive for the flu. With a temperature that hit 100.6 he missed two days of school, three wrestling tournaments and fell behind on assignments.

“I coughed all the time, it was unfortunate that I missed them [the wrestling tournaments] but I was not physically able to perform” said Carlson.

Though sick for those couple of days Carlson believes that people do “not need to freak out.”

One of the most important things The Center of Disease and Control and Prevention (CDC) wants the population to know are the symptoms. The symptoms can resemble that of  flu those of a cold but can also include chills, muscle/body aches, fatigue, vomiting and diarrhea. Another important thing is “Period of Contagiousness.” A person with the flu is contagious one day before symptoms appear to five-seven days after. Spreading the flu is as easy as coughing, sneezing or even talking. Another way to spread the virus is  by touching a surface which has the flu virus on it and then touching a mouth, eyes or nose.

So what can people do to lessen the spread of the flu virus or even fight it?

Health officials have urged all to take preventative actions. Preventative actions can mean limiting contact with others, washing hands, using hand sanitizer and staying home (from work or school) when sick. Also on the list was getting vaccinated. (Read the fact check to learn more about the flu vaccination.)

In a poem about love Shel Silverstein touched on the subject of the flu.

“Ricky was “L” but he’s home with the flu, Lizzie, our “O,” had some homework to do, Mitchell, “E” prob’ly got lost on the way, So I’m all of the love that could make it today.”

According to the Pioneer Press TwinCities.com the peak of the flu season has passed, nevertheless all health precautions should be taken.

Having already received the flu shot, freshman Lucy Awe hopes that people will listen to the urges of the health officials.

“I wouldn’t want anyone else to be put through the pain of losing someone to such a horrible thing like so many people have been put through with losing Carly,” said Awe. “Anything that will help prevent the flu is obviously something I will take into consideration, as should many others.”

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About Pauline Ojambo

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