Beginning this Thursday, the University of Connecticut will provide free flu shots to students in preparation for flu season, according to Student Health and Wellness (SHaW).
SHaW released the dates for its flu shot clinics on their Instagram and website yesterday. With their UConn ID, Storrs students have access to vaccinations every Thursday, from Oct. 14 through Nov. 18, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. in Shippee residence hall’s Pequot Room.
Common symptoms for the flu include fever, muscle aches, headaches, scratchy or sore throat, cough and a runny nose, according to SHaW.
“If you have these symptoms and have questions about how to manage them, please consult a healthcare provider. If you have an underlying medical condition such as asthma, you are at increased risk of complications from the flu,” the SHaW website said.
For students seeking medical attention or advice, SHaW’s Advice Nurse can be reached at (860) 486-4700, using option one. During the academic year, the line is active 24 hours a day. For severe illness involving high fever, chest pain, severe diarrhea or dehydration, students should seek immediate medical attention or head to the ER.
University Spokesperson Stephanie Reitz emphasized the seriousness of the flu virus, which can escalate when left untreated, resulting in hospitalization or death.
“According to the CDC, since 2010 in the U.S. there are an estimated 9 million to 45 million cases of flu annually, resulting in 140,000 to 810,000 hospitalizations and 12,000 to 61,000 deaths each year,” Reitz said.
Reitz also said the typical flu season is from late October through March, and so far, the UConn Storrs campus has yet to detect the flu among its large population.
“All of the symptoms of flu overlap with the symptoms of COVID-19. It is impossible to tell the difference without testing. However, being vaccinated for COVID-19 and the flu greatly reduces your chances of becoming ill from either virus,” Reitz said.
Dr. David Banach, UConn Health infectious diseases physician and hospital epidemiologist, has also seen a tie between the annual flu season and the still-present pandemic. Lockdown, mask-wearing and social distancing kept people’s immune systems protected from a range of illnesses, causing last year’s flu season to be minimal. It will take some time for immune systems to adjust to interaction and common germs.
“If the flu does circulate in the community, it’s going to be difficult to differentiate between the flu and COVID-19, which could potentially have a significant impact on testing capacity for both, as well as on overall healthcare capacity,” Banach said. “So any measures to prevent the flu, including vaccination, can protect individuals and also have a large impact on public health in the coming months.”
SHaW recommends staying home from obligations until a person is symptom free for 24-hours. To remain as hydrated as possible, avoid alcohol or drinks with caffeine, which only increase dehydration. Fever can be treated with over the counter medication like ibuprofen. For sore throats, SHaW suggests gargling a cup of warm water with a teaspoon of salt three to four times a day, or sucking on ice chips and popsicles for numbing purposes.
For further information on prevention and care, check out SHaW’s flu-related webpage.