Flu season here at the University of Connecticut means an influx of students at the Infirmary, increasing the need for extra staff and available appointments.
Flu season runs from November to as late as early April. January, February and early March are the months that the Infirmary tends to have the most flu patients.
Seasonal flu vaccines usually prevent extensive spreading of the virus. Some years, however, flu may spread rapidly if the vaccine is ineffective, which can happen if this season’s strain of the flu is not the same as the one given through the vaccine. The degree to which the vaccine matches the virus determines the effectiveness of the vaccine.
Most years, flu season causes a steady and predictable stream of UConn students to arrive sick at the Infirmary.
According to Tina McCarthy, director of Nursing at Student Health Services, the infirmary is busy during flu season, and at the beginning of the day many appointments are available, while most become filled by the end of the day.
“We certainly can accommodate for the volume by making sure we have plenty of staff available, which we do all the way into the evening so that there are plenty of opportunities for students to seek our assistance.” McCarthy said.
The infirmary is engaged not only in treating students with the flu, but also with preventing sickness. The Infirmary administers the flu vaccine on site as well as at clinics over the course of the fall, usually during late October and early November.
Student Health Services distributes flyers, approximately 300, to all residence halls in order to inform students about flu season and opportunities to get a free flu shot.
In addition, Student Health Services is engaged in a campaign to remind students about the simple ways to prevent flu, such as hand washing and covering one’s cough. This campaign includes distributing flyers as well as flu kits, including hand sanitizers and other items to help students prevent illness and items to treat symptoms in the case of contracting the flu.
“If you have a chronic illness, or you have symptoms, it would be really important for you to call us so that we can give you the best advice on what you should do to take care of yourself. There are times that someone with a serious chronic illness needs to seek attention sooner than another, but even still it’s always beneficial to call ahead so that we could do the right thing for the student that calls,” McCarthy said.
This time of year, flu season is winding down, and there will likely be fewer students contracting the flu as spring approaches.