Professor of Biology Mark Kainz analyzes recent influenza outbreak
In the midst of the recent flu season, Mark Kainz, professor of biology at Ripon College, presented on this year’s influenza before the Communicable Disease Division of the Winnebago County Health Department. The title of his presentation was: “Influenza: a Local and Global Health Concern, Now and in the Future.”
“The Communicable Disease Division monitors the outbreak and spread of infectious disease in Winnebago County and other counties in Wisconsin,” Kainz says. The division is predominantly staffed by registered nurses who are well-versed in the area of public health, and in turn use this information to aid in the services they provide to the community at large.
This was Kainz’s first time formally presenting about influenza, but he is no stranger to the topic. During the 2017 fall semester, alongside Associate Professor of History Rebecca Matzke, Kainz taught CTL 220: Bring Out Your Dead: Infectious Disease in World History. The course focused on influenza, the virus itself, and lessons the world learned from the 1918 influenza pandemic.
Kainz’s presentation emphasized the seriousness of influenza, stressing the difference between it and a bad cold. “The virus is constantly changing, which makes it something that must be closely monitored and also makes it something that will probably always be a concern for human health,” Kainz says.
“We still have much to learn about the virus and the disease that it causes but that simple things like covering coughs and sneezes, regular hand washing, getting the flu vaccine, and staying home when you are ill are all very effective at avoiding becoming ill from the flu or spreading it to others,” he says.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends the yearly flu vaccine to nearly everyone 6 months or older, even if viruses do not change from the previous season. According to the CDC, “A person’s immune protection from vaccination declines over time, so an annual vaccination is needed to get the ‘optimal’ or best protection against the flu.”
Kainz stresses the importance of getting healthcare advice from a trained provider instead of social media. “Unfortunately, this year’s flu vaccine is not highly effective against the H3N2 subtype, but it does provide some level of protection. This year’s flu vaccine does work, just not as well as we hoped it would.”
Kainz was grateful for the opportunity to enrich the knowledge of Winnebago County Health Department’s Communicable Disease Division staff, and pleased to contribute to the overall health of his community.
Dakota Marlega ’21