Flu Epidemic Infects New York State, Colgate


Both Colgate and New York State have been hit by the worst flu season in years. Colgate’s Student Health Services has distributed nearly a thousand flu shots this year.  

This year’s deadly flu epidemic has dominated hospitals and national news headlines, and the disease shows no signs of slowing down, according to federal officials at the Center for Disease Control (CDC). The New York Times reported that during the week ending on January 27, 7.1 percent of patient visits to hospitals in the United States were reportedly due to influenza-like illness, which rivals the 7.7 percent figure reported during the 2009 swine flu pandemic. Fifty-three children have died so far this season.

Although major news outlets are largely reporting the flu as an issue of national concern, the rate of flu-related hospitalizations in Central New York is among the highest in the country.

The New York State Department of Health released a flu surveillance report that indicated 104.3 laboratory-confirmed flu cases per 100,000 cases. This is more than twice the current national average of 51.4.

Director of Student Health Services Merrill Miller stated that unfortunately, Colgate has not been immune to the epidemic.

“I think it might be a little bit more severe [than usual],” Dr. Miller said. “We have a bit of a clustering [in patient visits], whereas in previous years it’s been more spread out over a long  period of time. We’re hopeful it has reached its peak.”

30-40 percent of people usually get flu shots, according to Dr. Miller. Even at its most effective, though, Miller estimated that the flu shot can only prevent approximately 70 percent of people from getting the flu. The CDC estimates that the vaccine will be 30 percent effective in 2018. Regardless of its effectiveness, doctors still recommend getting the flu shot because it can prevent the disease’s most serious symptoms and transmission to other people. 

Miller noted that the Student Health Center has given nearly 1,000 flu shots this season.

Student Health Services intern and senior Liz Arenare feels the severity of the flu is often underestimated on campus.  

“One of [the misconceptions about the flu] is that it isn’t that big of a deal,” Arenare said. “But for people who have underlying health issues, it can be dangerous. The average Colgate student may not be affected by it, but they can pass it on to people who are more vulnerable. By protecting yourself, you are also protecting people who are more vulnerable than you are.”

Colgate students have also faced the severity of the flu. Sophomore Chad Zappia received the flu shot, but was still hospitalized for two days after contracting the virus after finals week last semester. 

“I knew that there was a possibility I’d get the flu, but I didn’t really think I’d get it,” Zappia said. “But then when I [heard of] people dying, it made me nervous. I was pretty sore. I had a really high fever. It was probably the most sick I’ve ever been.”

The Student Health Center will continue to offer flu shots. Miller advises students returning from study groups in nations where the flu shot was not offered to visit the Health Center. Miller and Arenare also recommend washing hands, keeping up nutrition, prioritizing sleep, exercising regularly and avoiding sharing water bottles to prevent contracting the virus.

Zappia felt that finals week preventedhim from prioritizing rest to stay healthy. 

“I wish I had slept more during finals week,” he said.

Contact Michael Rasmussen at [email protected].