The UNI Student Health Clinic has recently seen an increased number of students who have tested positive for the flu. Currently, flu is widespread in the State of Iowa. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that so far this season there have been at least 15 million flu illnesses, 140,000 hospitalizations and 8,200 deaths from flu. The flu is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses that infect the nose, throat, and sometimes the lungs. Each case of the flu can vary from mild to severe illness.
Signs and Symptoms of Flu
People who have the flu often feel some or all of these signs and symptoms that usually start suddenly, not gradually:
- Fever* or feeling feverish/chills
- Sore throat
- Runny or stuffy nose
- Muscle or body aches
- Fatigue (very tired)
- Some people may have vomiting and diarrhea, though this is more common in young children than in adults.
*It is important to note that not everyone with flu will have a fever.
How Flu Spreads
According to the CDC, most experts believe that flu viruses spread mainly by tiny droplets made when people with flu cough, sneeze or talk. These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby. Less often, a person might also get flu by touching a surface or object that has flu virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes.
Period of Contagiousness
You may be able to pass on the flu to someone else before you know you are sick, as well as while you are sick. Although people with the flu are most contagious in the first 3-4 days after their illness begins, some otherwise healthy adults may be able to infect others beginning 1 day before symptoms develop and up to 5 to 7 days after becoming sick. Some people, especially young children and people with weakened immune systems, might be able to infect others with flu viruses for an even longer time.
Onset of Symptoms
The time from when a person is exposed to flu virus and infected to when symptoms begin is about 1 to 4 days, with an average of about 2 days.
Preventing Seasonal Flu
It’s not too late to get your flu vaccine! The Student Health Clinic has approximately 50 flu shots remaining. Students can also receive a flu shot at Hy-Vee, CVS, Walgreens, Walmart or their family doctor. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends using the vaccine finder to find additional locations where the flu shot is available. The CDC also recommends everyday preventive actions (like staying away from people who are sick, covering coughs and sneezes and frequent handwashing) to help slow the spread of germs that cause respiratory (nose, throat, and lungs) illnesses, like flu.
Antiviral drugs can be used for some patients who are at high risk of developing complications, but are not routinely prescribed. Over the counter medications may provide relief for symptoms:
- Decongestants for nasal congestion
- Cough suppressants to decrease coughing
- Acetaminophen or ibuprofen for sore throat, fever, body and muscle aches
- Get plenty of rest and sleep
- Keep hydrated
- Use a humidifier
Healthy Habits to Help Prevent Flu
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick. When you are sick, keep your distance from others to protect them from getting sick too.
- Stay home when you are sick and until your fever is gone for 24 hours (without taking fever medications). If possible, stay home from work, school, and errands when you are sick. This will help prevent spreading your illness to others.
- Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing. It may prevent those around you from getting sick. Flu and other serious respiratory illnesses, like respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), whooping cough, and severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), are spread by cough, sneezing, or unclean hands.
- Clean your hands. Washing your hands often will help protect you from germs. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Germs are often spread when a person touches something that is contaminated with germs and then touches his or her eyes, nose, or mouth.
- Practice other good health habits. Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces at home, work or school, especially when someone is ill. Get plenty of sleep, be physically active, manage your stress, drink plenty of fluids, and eat nutritious food.
To avoid spreading illness to others
- Stay home when you are ill and until your fever is gone for 24 hours (without taking fever medications).
- Email your instructors and explain that you are ill, and arrange to make up missed class work.
- If you work on campus, contact your supervisor for assistance at least two hours prior to the start of your shift.
- If you live in the residence hall you should stay in your room as much as you can, and wear a mask if you must go out to a communal area i.e. bathrooms and lounges. If you have concerns, talk to your RA or call the Hall Office in your residence hall.
- Residence Life staff have Clorox wipes and other cleaning products available in the hall offices.
- If you live in a residence hall, you can request a meal in your room, please call the Dining center nearest your residence hall, ask for the manager, and they will help you.
Students with any health-related concerns or questions, please contact the Student Health Clinic at (319)-273-2009 option #1 or use the Patient Portal to make an appointment. After hours care options are available on our website.