Will the flu catch you?

It’s that time of year again, when winter break is over and school is back in session.  It’s also flu season, and this year it’s hitting North America harder than ever.

Influenza is a highly contagious respiratory illness caused by what most people know as the flu virus. Annually, it affects 5 to 20 percent of U.S. residents, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

This year is different though. The flu season hit the U.S. much earlier than usual and it surprised most people.

Along with an early start, the strain of influenza that is being spread is a harsher virus than just any old flu.

“I’ve never had the flu, but it’s deadly,” said 21-year-old Precious Warrick, an early childhood education major.

Unfortunately for some of those who catch this virus, Warrick is correct.

According to the CDC, this strain of clinical influenza that is affecting North America right now – the H3N2 virus – is associated with a higher rate of illness and death.

Each year more than 200,000 people are hospitalized for flu-related complications and anywhere between 3,000 and 49,000 deaths per year have been recorded by the CDC in the past 30 years. his year, reports are close to epidemic rates.

“It sucks and I’m sick,” said Clancy Taylor, a 20-year-old small business management major.

Many of us try to avoid getting sick, but some don’t know what the best methods are to maintaining their health during flu season.

According to Flu.gov, the best way to avoid getting this virus is by receiving the flu vaccination yearly. But many people don’t do this at all.

When 52 students between 18 and 25 years old were asked whether or not they had gotten a flu shot, only 15 of them said that they have already been vaccinated or would be soon.

“Shots are no fun,” Taylor said. “But they work, I suppose.”

Along with being vaccinated, Flu.gov also recommends washing your hands regularly, avoiding touching your eyes, nose or mouth and practicing proper cough and sneeze etiquette to keep from becoming infected or spreading the virus.

“Lately I just avoid people,” said 26-year-old Nicholas Matthias, a psychology major. “I know proper hygiene usually helps too.”

Though many of us try to avoid catching the virus by staying healthy, it’s hard to know where the virus is from if you become sick.

The virus can infect people by coming in contact with the eyes, nose or mouth through coughing, sneezing or even touching a germy surface or object and then touching the eyes, nose or mouth, according to the CDC.

Along with being infected with the flu virus, spreading the infection is also a problem too.

To help stop the spread of influenza, the CDC recommends following proper hygienic procedures and to clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces at home, work or school, especially when someone is ill.

Most people can infect others up to seven days after flu symptoms appear, according to the CDC.

“It’s a consequence of human interaction,” Matthias said. “I guess it’s just going to happen.”