Flu season is back with a vengeance

Cases of the flu have skyrocketed this week, just in time for final exams.

Liv Ullman

As COVID-19 mask regulations start to relax, another viral disease is beginning to ravage Washington and Lee’s campus: the flu.

Dozens of  influenza cases have already popped up on campus in the last week. Last year, Washington and Lee had zero known cases of influenza, said Director of Student Health Dr. Jane Horton. 

Horton said the health center has seen an increase in influenza A cases “both before and after Thanksgiving break.”

Part of this recent uptick in cases might be due to traveling and the cold weather. But Horton also said that cases were lower last year due to “lower U.S. circulation of influenza last flu season, higher flu vaccination rates last year and mask/distance precautions for COVID-19 that reduced risk of flu transmission.”

Students who have caught the flu said the timing of this wave has made it tough to prepare for finals. 

Ryan Schwartz, ’25, said that his study schedule was completely ruined by getting sick. It was hard to focus due to headaches, coughing and chills, he said. He even had to get a few of his tests delayed.

“It’s really stressful to be fighting illness and worrying about college finals for the first time,” he said. 

Another student, Caroline Holmes, ’25, said she was completely thrown off track after contracting the flu. 

“I feel overwhelmed missing the last few classes before finals,” Holmes said. “I’m behind on all of my work, although I do get extensions, and I’m much more nervous about finals than I was before I was sick.” 

A student health advisory email sent out on Dec. 8 said that “in the past week, the Student Health Center has seen a significant number of students with the flu, presenting with high fever, cough and aches,” which are common symptoms. 

The email also said that any students with symptoms should reach out to the Student Health Center for testing. 

The email also recommended taking Tamiflu or other over-the-counter treatments for at least five days to combat symptoms.

Students who are not currently ill may reach out to the health center to receive a flu shot free of charge. So far, the school has distributed 570 of their original 700 doses of flu vaccines. 

Last year, the health center organized a flu vaccine clinic in Leyburn Library in October. This year, the clinic did not happen until last week, after the outbreak on campus. 

Horton encourages any student who has yet to be vaccinated to get a shot immediately.

Horton also recommended that all students wear a mask and maintain social distancing, refrain from sharing glasses, cups, cans or bottles and cough or sneeze into their elbows. She also said students should wash their hands regularly and get seven to nine hours of sleep to best support the immune system.

Those in need of an immediate medical provider can visit the emergency room at Carilion Rockbridge Community Hospital or VelocityCare Urgent Care, both located within a short driving distance from campus.