Tallahassee higher education campuses and hospitals see a large number of students and others suffering from influenza.
Experts, many of whom have warned of a severe flu season for several months, say this is the result of a return to normality and a reduction in the precautions taken while COVID-19 numbers were at their peak.
At Florida State University, the school’s health center is filled with sick students.
“The number of cases has skyrocketed and our university health center is overwhelmed by care for sick students,” an internal e-mail from FSU Provost Sally McRorie told the faculty that the Democrat has received.
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The email asks professors not to send students to the health center for a medical excuse for absence or delayed work – a request that was first introduced because of COVID-19. An FSU professor who wished to remain anonymous told the Democrat on Wednesday that he “was missing 40% of a class today.”
Amy Magnuson, director of FSU’s Health Services, says they have over 20 new cases a day – a number that is steadily rising but probably much less than the actual total number.
Meanwhile, there were 102 positive flu cases at FAMU reported from the university’s community website on Wednesday alone, according to FAMU’s director of health services Tanya Tatum.
“We see a lot of cases of the flu,” Tatum said. “I’m concerned.”
As of last week, the Tallahassee Memorial HealthCare had an influx of flu patients that is “much higher than previous years,” said Dr. Nectar Aintablian, a pediatric expert in infectious diseases at TMH.
Aintablian, like university officials, urged people to get their flu vaccine to protect them from getting sick, especially those in high-risk categories.
“I’m afraid (flu) might come back with a vengeance this year because we had such low numbers last year when people were very careful about going out, wearing masks,” she said.
“Please do not wait to get your flu shot.”
This latest rise in influenza cases comes just three years after Tallahassee hospitals – along with the rest of the country – struggled to keep up with the worst flu season in a decade.
From 2018:Tallahassee hospitals are struggling with the worst flu season in 10 years
Athletics and long waits at FSU
This year, the flu already appears to be back with a vengeance affecting athletes, while potentially spreading in classrooms and dormitories.
Several athletes across Florida State University’s athletics program are, and have been, dealing with flu-like symptoms.
Maya Anderson, an FSU freshman, noticed a cough on Monday, and the following day she had 102.4 fever and vomited. She went to Patients First, a clinic, on Lake Ella and was able to walk in and out in under an hour.
“There are more people on my floor who are sick,” she said of her Magnolia Hall dorm room. “Most of my friends are sick.”
The next day, Anderson checked the website of the same clinic she was seeking care for and was greeted with a waiting time of 655 minutes – almost 11 hours.
A journalist called the university’s health service to get waiting times Thursday morning and found that it was “on capacity” for the day.
For those looking for a flu shot, the university recently launched a mobile vaccine unit called Flu-ber that meets students wherever they are on campus.
Updates on Flu-Ber’s location are regularly posted on Health Services’ Twitter and Instagram.
“It’s important for everyone to get a flu shot, but especially for anyone with underlying health conditions,” Magnuson said.
“I think in terms of prevention, wearing face masks or at least covering your mouth when you cough or sneeze can help prevent the spread of flu and of course COVID.”
Vaccine hesitation at FAMU
The increase in influenza infections at FAMU is linked to an overall problem which, according to Tatum, has been at the university for the past year – the hesitation with vaccines.
The school has set aside $ 1 million in cash prizes to encourage vaccination for students. However, Tatum says most of that money has not been spent because students are just not willing to get the COVID-19 vaccine or the flu shot.
“Our campus population is mostly not good at getting shots at all. I could not give away 150 doses of flu vaccine last year, and this year we have not given 100 doses away yet,” Tatum said. , which says ‘I have never had the flu, I do not get a vaccination …’ “
“There’s just a real reluctance to get vaccinated.”
Tatum repeats Magnuson, urging everyone to get tested for the flu and consider the vaccine.
“Right now is a really critical time. It’s before your Thanksgiving break and then you come back and there’s finals. I think the loss of that time in your academic program is … on a really critical point.”
National influenza warnings
During a briefing at the White House in early October, CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky that the United States was in danger of a serious flu season heading into the fall and winter months of this year.
She linked this, like Aintablian, to a reduced immunity to influenza as cases dropped to a record low in the last flu season.
She also reiterated warnings of a “twindemi”, adding that the flu could also increase demand for health facilities across the country, which could cause an avalanche effect if another COVID wave arrives.
More:Experts renew warnings about ‘twindemic’ as US enters flu season amid rising COVID-19 cases: ‘We face the same threat this year’
“The COVID-19 pandemic is not over, and the risk of both influenza and COVID-19 circulating could put further pressure on frontline hospitals and healthcare professionals,” she said.
Where to get a flu shot
There are many places that Tallahassee residents can go to get a free flu vaccination such as CVS and Walgreens, the country’s two largest retail pharmacies, which offer simultaneous administration of COVID-19 and the flu vaccines.
Popular supermarket chains like Publix, Walmart and Winn Dixie also administer flu vaccines in addition to walk-in clinics and GPs.
“It’s free and you can get the flu shot at the same time as the COVID vaccine,” said TMH’s Dr. Aintablian. “Do not postpone it, protect yourself and others.”
Contact Christopher Cann at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow @ChrisCannFL on Twitter.
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