Mary Grace von Thron, Campus Carrier deputy news editor
The Ladd Center has been preparing for flu season since February, before the reality of COVID-19 set in. Due to this, The Ladd Center is juggling keeping students safe from both the flu and COVID-19.
“We don’t really know how COVID-19 and flu season are going to mix,” Melanie Merrin, registered nurse and assistant director at the Ladd Center said. “Flu season is really kind of hard to predict in general.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) the 2019-20 flu season was classified as a moderate flu season, with about 400,000 hospitalizations and 22,000 deaths reported.
The severity of each flu season is determined by the percentage of visits to outpatient clinics for flu-like illnesses, the rate of flu-associated hospitalizations and the percentage of deaths resulting from the flu.
Even if the 2020-2021 flu season is considered moderate or average, it could still result in complications for hospitals and health care resources.
“We are already in a season where our health care resources and our hospital resources are sort of stretched already and if we have a bad flu season then we could get into a situation where we are exceeding our healthcare capacity,” Merrin said.
Despite this, some experts have said that flu season could be light this year due to the precautions many people are taking to avoid COVID-19, such as wearing masks and taking extra measures to distance and wash their hands.
“So maybe flu season will be light this year, but nobody knows,” Merrin said.
As they do every year, the Ladd Center is offering free flu shots for students. Flu shots were ordered back in February before the college transitioned to remote instruction. The amount of flu shots that are ordered depends on the amount of flu shots that were given by the Ladd Center in the previous year.
The Ladd Center usually schedules a few days during the flu season where they offer all day, walk-in, flu shot clinics which allow students to come by the Ladd Center to get a flu shot at their own convenience.
“We haven’t been able to do that these last couple of weeks because the campus wide testing was going on and we were having to use some of our staff for that” Merrin said. So it was really hard to offer all day flu shots”
Though the Ladd Center has offered a few time slots for walk-ins, most students have chosen to schedule an appointment online to get their flu shot.
The Ladd Center also offers flu tests for students who are exhibiting symptoms of the flu. So far, one student at Berry has been diagnosed with the flu back in September.
“That’s kind of an early start,” Merrin said. “Flu season usually runs from October to March but it doesn’t really get cranked up until November.”
COVID-19 and the flu are both classified as respiratory illnesses and there has been a growing concern about how to differentiate between the two viruses.
“They do have some crossover symptoms, so it will be hard,” Merrin said.
Because COVID-19 presents itself very differently depending on the age and health conditions of each person, it can be a challenge to narrow the list of symptoms down. However, the main symptoms that are seen with the flu are a fever over 101 degrees Fahrenheit, body aches and a cough.
In recent years, there has been a growing concern over the effectiveness of the flu vaccine, including claims that the flu vaccine can give someone the flu.
“And that is 100% false” Merrin said. There’s no live virus in the flu vaccine. It cannot give you the flu. If some people get the flu vaccine and then they still get the flu that season, that unfortunately means that the flu strain that you contracted was not covered by the flu vaccine or you just didn’t develop full immunity”
The flu virus constantly changes and mutates from year to year. Because of this, the flu vaccine changes each year as well.
“Even though its not 100% effective every year, it is your best shot to avoid getting the flu” Merrin said.
Students can schedule an appointment at the Ladd Center by calling 706-236-2267.
For more information on the flu season, students can visit the CDC website at cdc.gov.