The Brazos County Health Department is currently investigating a flu outbreak affecting primarily college-aged students in the Bryan-College Station area.
From August 26 until September 6, there were 362 flu cases reported, which includes confirmed flu cases and patients with influenza-like symptoms. Some of these cases involved people ages 18 to 23, including students at the University of Texas A&M.
Community Health Services Division Director of the Brazos County Health Department Julie Anderson said the department is currently looking at how the outbreak started.
"The working hypothesis at this time is that some students came already sick with regular flu that is normal circulating, came to parties and came to get-togethers as campus was opening for the new academic year and just had the perfect storm for infecting students at one time," Anderson said.
Last year, during the same time of the year, Brazos County only had up to eight reported cases of flu. Those numbers came from voluntary reporting from hospitals.
"That is a lot for August. It's not a lot when you have the perfect storm, which we believe has happened where you have that infected person come in and you have a lot of people around them ill," Anderson said.
The health department, which monitors the number of flu cases reported voluntarily all year round, started digging deeper into the numbers once it was notified about a high number of Texas A&M students being tested for flu or experiencing flu-like symptoms two weeks ago. In addition, parents and other health centers contacted the department about the high flu numbers.
Director of Preventive Medicine at the Texas A&M Student Health Services Dr. Tiffany Skaggs said they started seeing it during rush week, especially at sororities and fraternities.
Several Texas A&M students who News Channel 25 spoke with on Friday did not know about the outbreak when asked, including Texas A&M Sophomore Arturo Garcia. He expressed his concerns about the flu spreading around campus.
"Many of the kids will still go to class instead of taking the option to get better for their well-being. They run the risk for everybody else getting sick and I don't want to get sick, especially during finals and midterms,” Garcia said.
Garcia plans now to look into getting the flu shot. He said awareness about the issue is his biggest concern after learning about the outbreak.
The health department is investigating whether there is a genetic drift of the influenza virus and the strains in the 2016-2017 vaccine are what the students contracted.
Anderson advises everyone to be vigilant and to get their flu shot to prevent a secondary spread. For those who have already contracted the virus, she advises to go to the doctor, start the medicine early and stay home if sick.
The Texas A&M Student Health Center received 600 doses of flu shots on Wednesday after the initial 300 obtained were used. The annual free flu shot campaign on campus will take place on October 5th and 6th, according to Skaggs.
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