This year’s flu season has students struggling to keep up on missed work while Cornell Health struggles to handle an influx of appointments punctually.
Influenza A has come to Cornell in mass waves: students experienced fevers, heat flashes, fatigue and non-stop coughing among other severe symptoms.
According to Dr. Jada Hamilton, medical director at Cornell Health, the flu can have students bed-ridden for up to a week, sometimes longer if they have underlying health concerns.
“Flu season has definitely begun,” Hamilton said. “Cornell Health has seen a sharp increase in influenza cases in recent weeks, causing us to focus many of our clinical appointments on students presenting with flu and flu-like illnesses.”
With COVID-19 still in circulation, Hamilton emphasized the importance of taking the necessary precautions like vaccinations and washing hands frequently to avoid getting sick.
“We’ve had cases of individuals contracting COVID and the flu simultaneously, which can make you sicker than if you experience just one illness,” Hamilton said.
Cornell Health offers numerous resources such as self-care supplies in the pharmacy, consultations and free and accessible flu vaccines. This fall, almost 6,000 Cornell community members have received their shot at various vaccine clinics around campus.
Still, students voiced having trouble booking in-person appointments despite Cornell Health’s focus on flu-related affairs. Individuals with urgent cases have waited up to three days to be seen; by then, the appointment was less helpful.
“I couldn’t get an appointment while I was sick… by the time I got to Cornell Health, I was already past the worst part of my flu,” said Abigail Kim ’26.
When asked to comment directly on students’ concerns with appointment wait times, Cornell Health declined to further comment, saying they stood by their original statements.
Kim along with Austin Bares ’26 additionally found communication with their professors to be difficult, struggling to learn through their accommodations.
“The professor said he was going to give us online videos, but they were poorly recorded…I had to end up asking other students for notes,” Kim said.
Some professors, in Bares’ case, were less accommodating.
“Two of my professors were understanding out of five,” Bares said. “My P.E. coach told me to drop out of the P.E. class due to medical reasons… I won’t be doing that.”
While severe cases of the flu were common among students, others experienced milder cases and were still able to attend classes. But, they were easily distracted in lecture.
“When I’m sick, I don’t feel like paying attention at all…all I’m focused on is my illness,” said Videesha Mohan ’26.
No matter the severity of symptoms, flu season has deterred students from staying on top of work, causing most to fall behind. Many have been sick at Cornell before, however, the flu has impacted their studies most.
“Compared to COVID… I feel like this was worse,” Kim said.
Helpless feelings were common as a result. Missing days of classes and feeling too lethargic to work efficiently was discouraging. However, doctors reassured students that they are not alone and should focus on getting better first.
“[The doctor] told me that the University is an international petri dish to assure me that there was nothing wrong with my immune system,” Bares said.