The time to stock up on anti-bacterial soap is now, because this side of the state is using up the nation’s supply.
However, this should not raise an alarm as the populace of eastern Washington is drying up bathroom soap stations to combat the recent nationwide influenza epidemic.
The virus has reached a “widespread” classification in Washington state, according to the Center for Disease Control, but remains relatively unthreatening even in high-density communities such as Spokane and Pullman.
Compared to the surrounding region, Pullman contains a high-density population during the school year. No matter where anyone goes, personal contact is inevitable -- whether through an exchange of books, bathroom seats, food or Red Solo cups. So, it is almost impossible not to wonder how the flu doesn’t get passed around like a leaked exam answer sheet.
An explanation for this outbreak of cleanliness is simple: People actually care enough about their own well-being to adhere to medical advice. As a result, fewer and fewer people are prone to influenza infection through skin contact and non-direct contact such as touching the same object.
Not only is the community recurrently practicing the art of hand washing, the WSU Health and Wellness center administered 2,075 flu shots to students on campus, 350 of them since Jan. 1, according to Nurse Manager Sally Redman. With the Health and Wellness Center providing these shots for $25, it is understandable that flu activity will maintain its current low activity threat.
Go ahead and give the nearest person a pat on the back for this effort. Don’t worry; chances are any person in close proximity has thoroughly washed their hands.
According to the most recent Center for Disease Control influenza report, Region 10 on the national influenza map includes the states of Alaska, Idaho, Oregon and Washington, and currently contains a 32.6 percent influenza-positive population.
The Pierce County Health Department centered in Tacoma makes a more concentrated perspective available. The Health Department states, “The proportion of outpatient and emergency room visits for influenza-like illnesses (ILI) was low in both western and eastern Washington,” with an unfortunate “six reported deaths.”
ILI rates are indicative of flu activity. Four of the six deaths are attributed to elderly persons.
As the magnifying glass inches closer, IMS Health data demonstrates influenza activity on a scale from one to 10, one signifying no activity and 10 indicating high alert. The national average is currently situated at a level seven, while the Spokane and Eastern Washington area hangs below at a five.
These results, in layman’s terms, connote that the highly populated areas of eastern Washington are less prone to influenza infection and more committed to personal cleanliness than the rest of the country on average.
But do not confuse this data as a get-out-of-jail-free card for continued hand washing habits. Keep up routines of personal hygiene, or run the risk of devolving into a recluse and living out the rest of flu season as a hermit (not suggested).
Hygiene is not the only path to prevent influenza from infecting. The CDC recommends receiving flu vaccinations as long as the virus is circulating. Trypanaphobes, those who fear needles, should also heed this warning because not receiving a vaccination greatly enhances chances that the body, if infected, will not be able to fight off the virus.
The smartest decisions someone can make during flu season include maintaining a high standard of personal hygiene, not sharing food or drinks with anyone and, for those aged six months or older, receiving a vaccination from a local health department.
Stay healthy and, for goodness’ sake, don’t become a hermit.
-Dylan Parker is a sophomore communications major from Olympia. He can be contacted at 335-2290 or by firstname.lastname@example.org. The opinions expressed in this column are not necessarily those of the staff of The Daily Evergreen or those of Student Publications.