According to the Centers of Disease Control's (CDC) FluView Report, influenza activity remains high and widespread across the U.S. This year's strain is the H3N2 virus, which tends to be associated with greater severity in terms of more hospitalizations and deaths. The FluView update from the CDC's Web site contains data as of Jan.12, 2013.
According to the Vermont Department of Health, Vermont is at a widespread activity level of the flu virus, which is the highest level possible. This means that outbreaks of influenza or increases in Influenza-like-illness (ILI) cases and recent laboratory-confirmed influenza is in at least half the regions in the state. ILI is defined as a fever of around 100 degrees and a cough and/or sore throat.
Vermont is one of 30 states experiencing high ILI activity levels, with the majority of those states located in the south.
Calls to the Vermont Department of Health for further comment were not immediately returned by press time.
Megan Cornell, health clinic director and school nurse at Burr and Burton Academy, said that BBA has had a number of students and faculty come down with the flu this year.
"The flu has looked pretty different this year," she said. "We have had plenty of dismissals (by nurses) because we thought students had the flu, more than last year at this time I think. We also have had many teachers come down with the flu and miss some days."
Cornell said that they send any student home who they think might have something viral. BBA also offered flu shots to faculty in late fall and again last week to help combat the problem.
"We also ordered a bunch of hand sanitizers, tissues, and things like that for teachers to distribute in their class," said Cornell. "We are armed with supplies and doing what we can to prevent the flu spreading."
On the other side of coin, the Dorset School has not experienced an increase in the number of students or faculty coming down with the flu from last year, according to Principal Rosanna Moran.
"We are taking precautions so that the flu doesn't spread," she said. "We have stepped up and done a good job making sure door handles and hand railings are disinfected and emphasizing with the kids to be aware not to spread their germs. We also have hand sanitizers throughout the school that the students use frequently."
Influenza is a viral infection that affects mainly the nose, throat, bronchi and, occasionally, the lungs. Infection usually lasts for about a week and is characterized by sudden onset of high fever, aching muscles, headache and sever malaise, non-productive cough, sire throat, and rhinitis, according to the Centers for disease control's Web site.
The virus is transmitted easily from person to person via droplets and small particles produced when infected people couch or sneeze. The flu tends to spread rapidly during seasonal epidemics, according to the CDC.
Most infected people recover within one to two weeks without requiring any medical treatment. However, in the very young, the elderly, and those with other serious medical conditions, infection can lead to severe complications, pneumonia, and death.
According to the CDC, it is estimated that 90 percent of seasonal flu-related deaths and more than 60 percent of seasonal flu-related hospitalizations in the United States each year occur in people 65 years or older. This is because human immune defenses become weaker with age.