2018 flu season severe due to virus’ specific strain


(File Photo/The Daily Campus)

This year’s flu season was severe due to the specific strain of the virus, Dr. Ellyssa Eror, Interim Medical Director at the University of Connecticut’s Student Health Services (SHS), said in an email.

“This year the predominant strain of flu was Influenza A: H3N2,” Eror said. “H3N2 is the most virulent of the five common circulating strains of influenza. It was also responsible for the flu seasons of 2012-13 and 2014-15.”

Eror said another contributing factor to the severity of this flu season was vaccine inefficiency, with UConn’s vaccine immunity coming in at 30 percent.

“This year’s flu vaccine was less well-matched to the more prevalent and virulent H3N2 strain,” Eror said. “A good year would be around 60 percent immunity, so we never approximate 100 percent immunity.”

As for next year’s flu season, Eror said its severity remains uncertain.

“There is no clear way to predict one flu season from the next,” Eror said. “I presume that the H3N2 vaccine will be updated before next season, and that could help.”

Eror said she praises students’ efforts to protect themselves from the flu this year.

“At SHS we gave more than 4,000 free flu shots this season,” Eror said. “Additionally, many students received their flu shots at home. Our Huskies really stepped up to protect their pack.”

Eror said the flu can be spread through droplet exposure.

“Although coughing can spread the virus more than six feet away from its source, simply breathing can spread the virus three feet away,” Eror said.

Eror said those who get the flu experience a number of different symptoms.

“Classic flu symptoms include fever, chills, muscle ache, congestion, coughing and a sore throat,” Eror said. “It really is quite miserable.”

Eror said the flu can be countered through several methods, such as washing one’s hands, using hand sanitizer and exercising proper coughing etiquette—which is coughing into the elbow or sleeve rather than the hand.

Eror said the virus can remain on surfaces for up to two days, making these sanitary practices especially vital during flu season.

Connor Lenz is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at connor.lenz@uconn.edu.

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