Adrian Boteanu / Sun Staff Photographer

Cornell Health has provided more than 11,500 flu shots since the beginning of fall semester.

February 12, 2020

Coughs on Campus? Probably the Flu

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Across campus, lecture halls echo with coughs and sneezes: flu season is in full swing.

It’s not just on campus, however — 2,216 cases of the flu have been reported in Central New York since Oct. 5, 2019, with 65 of those having been treated at Cornell, according to Anne Jones, Cornell Health’s director of medical services.

Jones told The Sun in an email that the health center typically notices a sharp increase in the flu and flu-like illnesses when students return from winter break — and this year, she said, is “no exception.”

But this year may actually be worse: According to the New York State Department of Health, on Feb. 2, 2019, five weeks into last year’s flu season, there were 7,066 confirmed cases of influenza in New York State. At the same point in time this year, that number has more than doubled to 17,231 cases.

“Because students live and study close together in the same spaces, the flu tends to spread fast on campus,” Jones said.

Jones recommended that Cornellians with flu-like symptoms should consult with Cornell Health, which has already provided more than 11,500 flu shots since the beginning of fall semester.

Coronavirus has been a recent hot topic in the news, and many students on campus are understandably concerned,” Jones said. “But in truth, in the United States, your chances of getting the flu are much, much higher.”

An option for students suffering from the flu are medications like Tamiflu and Relenza, which are likely to be effective against most influenza virus strains, according to the Center for Disease Control.

“The sooner you start taking an anti-flu medication, the better it will work,” wrote William Klepack, medical director at the Tompkins County Health Department, in a press release. “It’s still not too late to get a flu shot. It can make the flu milder and hopefully, will prevent it.”

This advice reflects that some Cornell students who had the flu received from Cornell Health.

“I had the flu for about 5 days and for those 5 days I couldn’t do anything really, I just laid in bed and asked my friends to get me food” wrote Omar Elhosseni in an email to the Sun. “I mostly just slept all day and missed about 3 days of classes since I got it near the weekend. Cornell Health gave me tamiflu and told me to not go to classes while I still had a fever.”

Jones advised that students continue to take care of themselves during flu season.

“Remember to keep your immune system strong by getting plenty of sleep, eating well, and supporting your mental-wellbeing,” Jones continued. “Remember to be kind to yourself and to one another, and to reach out for support if you need it.