Flu, not COVID, Spreads Across Campus as Semester Draws to a Close

Staff Writer: Darius Johnson

As the fall semester comes to a conclusion, Wingate University’s campus has experienced a rise in serious flu-like illnesses. The Holbrook Health Center experienced a wave of students contracting illnesses similar to the flu beginning in late October, as well as symptoms that caused officials to worry about a potential return of COVID-19 cases. According to the CDC, North Carolina has a high influenza level, and the state has experienced a rise of reports of the flu much earlier than usual this year. High flu levels were also reported in the highly populated areas of South Carolina, New York, Maryland, Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee, Virginia and Mississippi. 

This wave of the flu came with slightly more serious symptoms this year, as the nation is still recovering from pandemic conditions earlier this year. 

“I got migraines out of nowhere, and then I began getting fevers rapidly and they would come and go,” said local resident Tilman Davis. “I also experienced body aches, chills, mucus, fatigue, coughing and coughing up phlegm after a week, and I was down for about a week and a half.” 

The extent of these symptoms convinced Davis’ nurses that he was likely dealing with more than just the flu, but a potential virus as well. 

One of Wingate’s nurse practitioners, Serena Ridenhour, said she has been seeing a sudden wave of students experiencing similar symptoms. Holbrook Health Center had appointments filled during the first couple weeks of November, and students had to wait for openings or go to nearby clinics unless they were under more serious conditions. 

Wingate student Dionna Taylor described her symptoms like this: “Day one, my throat was very dry and I just knew I was coming down with something. Then throughout the day the cough came and picked up but I assumed it was the weather. The following day, I started dealing with mucus and sneezing a lot, and chills were heavy during the whole four days. Afterwards, I had a lingering cough and headache on and off for about three days.” 

Notably, the public should be advised that the flu is much more common in winter months due to the fact that indoors, where people spend more time, the air is less humid than outside. As a result, the influenza virus is alive much longer and when close contact with others occurs, it is much more likely to be spread. The virus, similar to COVID-19, is airborne and can be contracted through close contact with bodily fluids or coughing and sneezing from someone who is infected. Typical symptoms of influenza include fevers, chills, difficulty breathing, fatigue, sore throat and headache, with them usually lasting no more than a week. More recently, students have been experiencing these symptoms slightly longer than a week, along with some minor additional symptoms. These signs have officials closely working with the public to ensure no new strands of either influenza or COVID-19 is spreading. 

The one key difference between the coronavirus and influenza is the illness duration, as COVID symptoms typically last longer than the flu, and the period in which it’s contagious lasts longer as well. Unfortunately, all symptoms for both illnesses have been experienced with the other and CDC advises the public to get tested when symptoms occur. According to the CDC, a person infected with the influenza virus will likely experience symptoms from one to four days after infection. A person infected with COVID-19 could experience symptoms from two to 14 days after infection. Due to the recent wave of the flu-like symptoms seen on campus, students were experiencing symptoms for around a week. Moreover, after they were tested for COVID-19, cases had not been reported to have returned to the campus. Additionally, loss of taste has been seen more commonly in coronavirus cases, although it also occurs in cases of influenza as well.

To assist students who may experience similar situations in the future, the Holbrook Health faculty are advising students to treat each symptom as they may come and to get a lot of rest. Contrary to common assumptions, the Health Center does not give out antibiotics for viral illnesses such as the flu. However, Holbrook provides students remedies for coughs and mucus, along with ibuprofen and acetaminophen for those experiencing pains, headaches or fevers. The Health faculty and the CDC are also advising everyone to receive updated COVID-19 vaccines and the flu vaccine if they had not previously. The majority of students reportedly having the flu on campus did not have the vaccine, according to Holbrook Health officials. Both vaccines are administered to students free of charge at Holbrook with a student ID and no appointments are needed.

To prevent contracting the flu, students should wash hands often with warm water and soap or an alcohol-based rub. Also frequently clean surfaces, especially frequently touched surfaces as well as staying away from people who are sick. Similar to COVID-19, flu viruses are also airborne, so wearing masks in social environments will also decrease one’s chances of catching the flu. Officials are also informing the public to limit contact with others if you are sick and not to eat in public places like a cafeteria. Additionally, refrain from normal activities until 24 hours after your last symptom without fever-reducing medicine.

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