What is influenza?
Influenza is a contagious viral infection of the lungs and airways that is more commonly known as “the flu”. ANYONE can get the flu and it can cause mild to severe illness.
How is influenza spread?
The flu can be spread person to person through droplets (like spit and mucous) from the mouth, nose, and throat as well as through direct contact with infected people. It can be spread in the air when an infected person coughs or sneezes nearby an uninfected person. The flu virus can also live a few hours on contaminated objects, i.e. door handles, computer keyboards, phones, etc, and can be transmitted via contact with these infected surfaces. This is why frequent hand washing or use of alchohol-based hand sanitizers (i.e. Purell) is so important!
What are the symptoms of influenza?
Influenza and the “common cold” both have symptoms that affect the throat and nose, but influenza symptoms are usually more severe than cold symptoms. These symptoms could include:
- high fever (over 100.4°F) and/or chills
- body aches
- stuffy or runny nose
- sore throat
- nausea, vomiting and/or diarrhea.
Symptoms of influenza usually start suddenly 1-3 days after being exposed to the influenza virus. Most people feel better after several days, but cough and tiredness may last up to two weeks or more. If you are having any of these symptoms or have any questions, please call Student Health Services at 410-617-5055. If you have any underlying health conditions such as asthma, diabetes, or heart disease, please check with Student Health Services about any special care you might require.
What should I do if I only have a few of the above-symptoms, or my symptoms are mild and not severe?
If you only have a few of the symptoms above, or your symptoms are mild, you can call Student Health Services (410-617-5055) to be triaged by one of our health care providers on the phone. We will be able to better direct your care or schedule you an office appointment if needed.
Is there a test for influenza?
The diagnosis of flu is usually made by a healthcare provider based on your symptoms and their clinical judgement. Rapid flu tests can be done, but they can have a negative result even if you have the flu. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) note that this kind of testing has a sensitivity ranging from approximately 50-70%, meaning that in up to half of influenza cases, the rapid test will be negative.
What should I do if I have the flu?
- Isolate yourself
- To avoid passing the flu to others, students with influenza-like illness (i.e. fever with either cough or sore throat) are advised to not go to class, work, athletic or social events until fever and/or diarrhea-free for at least 24 hours (fever-free without the use of fever-reducing medications like Tylenol or Motrin). Please notify your professor as soon as possible if you must miss class. Please see our illness note policy for more information
- If you live close to campus, going home to recuperate is also advisable. However, we realize this is not always possible. If you plan to remain on campus, please try to stay in a room separate from the common areas of your home/suite/residence hall (i.e. spare bedroom). When leaving your room, please cover your mouth/nose when coughing or when possible, wear a mask (available to pick up in Student Health Services)
- Get plenty of rest and fluids (more than 2 liters/day if possible)
- Drink clear fluids (such as water, broth, sports drinks, juice, tea, electrolyte beverages) to keep from becoming dehydrated.
- Cover coughs and sneezes
- Clean hands with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer often and especially after using tissues and after coughing or sneezing into hands.
What should I do if my roomate has the flu or a flu-like illness and cannot go home?
- Protect yourself from flu exposure by limiting time in your room as much as possible.
- Encourage your sick roommate to wear a facemask when you and others are in the room (masks available at Student Health Services)
- Consider rooming in another room in your suite or with other campus friends when possible.
- Support your roommate in their care and recovery (see care tips listed above)
When should I seek emergency care?
Students should be advised to look out for the following emergency warning signs that require urgent medical attention:
- High or prolonged fever, 101.0F ≥ 5 days
- Severe headache or neck stiffness/pain
- Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath (*especially if you have a history of asthma or other respiratory conditions)
- Pain or pressure in the chest
- Fainting or confusion
- Severe or persistent vomiting, ≥ 2 days
- Unusual rash
- Inability to take in fluids for 24 hours
If you any of the above warning signs, seek medical attention immediately and follow instructions below:
- For life-threatening emergencies: Call Public Safety at (410) 617-5911 to inform them of your situation. They will call 911 and be able to direct ambulance arrival on campus if needed.
- During business hours: call Student Health Services at (410) 617-5055.
- After 5pm on weekdays and on weekends: call the after-hours answering service (“physician ON-CALL”), at Sinai Hospital directly at (410) 583-9396. Please identify yourself as a Loyola University student and leave your name and phone number for the return call. Keep your phone line open so the physician may return your call.
How can I best prevent contracting the flu?
- Yearly vaccination is the most important way to prevent influenza
- Experts HIGHLY recommend that all college students get the influenza vaccine each year. The best time for you to get the influenza vaccine is early in the start of flu season (early October), but any time during the flu season is still a good time to get vaccinated. It takes about 2 weeks after vaccination to develop protection against the influenza virus. Past infection with influenza or immunization with the influenza vaccine does not protect a person from getting influenza the next year because influenza strains change from one season to the next.
- Take every day preventative actions to stop the spread of germs.
- Cover your nose and mouth with your sleeve when you cough or sneeze
- Wash your hands often with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth
- Try to avoid close contact with sick people
- And most importantly, keep yourself healthy!
- Make sure to get plenty of sleep. Get at least 7 hours, but if you’re starting to feel sick, it’s best to shoot for 8-10 hours. It might seem impossible on a college student schedule, but your body will thank you!
- Try to eat healthy well-balanced diet
- Get regular exercise
Please review the following resources for more information about Influenza (Flu):