Flu season effecting a younger demographic


According to St. Anthony’s Medical Center, 37 percent of their flu patients are between the ages of 20-30. The flu has been taking a much larger toll on this age range than in the past.


Dr. Cassandra Haddox, St. Anthony’s Medical Center’s assistant emergency medical director, said the flu seems to be hitting college adults more aggressively this year than in the past. Haddox attributes this to the behavior of young adults, especially those who are in their 20’s and 30’s, who are less likely to get a flu shot.


An element of this year’s strand of the flu virus, Haddox said, is its interaction with Tamiflu, the medication prescribed by your doctor when you are confirmed to have the flu.


“Tamiflu isn’t working as well. It has been lessening the symptoms, not getting rid of them like it has in years past,” Haddox said.


Dr. Joseph Hilgeman, at Des Peres Internal Medicine, said a typical flu season runs from January to March. This year however, the season began in December, which did not give the flu shot enough time to immunize people.


“We like to give the shot 6-8 weeks for maximum immunity, and the shots begin in September and run through November,” Hilgeman said.


“H1N1 is the prominent strain of flu this year. If you’re not immunized, you have a higher susceptibility. There was a similar virus in the 1970’s that everyone over 50 got exposed to, so now they are better able fight off this strand,” Hilgeman said.

There are hundreds of strands of the flu. The flu shot immunizes against the three or four that are most likely to hit. If a person has had a particular strand, they are better protected. The older generation does have a higher immunity, said Dr. Hilgeman.


Hilgeman said to watch out for the true influenza symptoms which are more phenomena in nature, including respiratory illness, a fever of over 102 and body aches, not the stomach symptoms of nausea, and vomiting that are typically associated with the flu.


Hilgeman said if people have these symptoms, they need to be seen within 48 hours. If the doctors can test and confirm the flu within 48 hours of the first symptoms, the patient will have a much better chance of recovery with the Tamiflu. If the patient waits longer than 48 hours, they just have to let the virus run its course.


Haddox said she recommends students stay hydrated, treat their fevers with acetaminophen, ibuprofen, or asprin, wash their hands and avoid drinking from other people’s glasses. If a person’s symptoms get worse, or if they become short of breath or increasingly weak, he or she should she a doctor immediately.


Haddox and Hilgeman both said there is still time to get a flu shot. People can still receive some immunity from the flu if they get the shot soon.

Webster University Health Services department says, “If a student thinks they have the flu, they are encouraged to come to Student Health Services for assessment, information and referral as needed.”

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