Flu season hits across the U.S. and at CWRU; get tips for minimizing your risk

While concerns about novel coronavirus continue to capture headlines, this year’s flu season is experiencing a “second peak” of illness reports in the U.S.—a trend also reflected in visits to University Health and Counseling Services (UHCS) at Case Western Reserve.

After dropping significantly in this country for the first couple of weeks of January, visit trends for influenza-like illness (ILI) have sharply increased since then. The Centers for Disease Control’s (CDC) most recent data shows the percentage of visits for ILI at this time far exceeding all years’ rates from the past decade—with the sole exception of the 2017­–18 flu season. Even more daunting, the CDC reports that indicators to date signal that the country has not yet reached the peak of this year’s flu season.

“Given that novel coronavirus has spread so quickly and scientists have not yet developed a vaccine, it’s understandable for news reports to focus on this outbreak,” said UHCS Executive Director Sara Lee. “That said, right now people on our campus and nationwide are far, far more likely to contract flu.”

So far this flu season, the CDC reports 22 million flu illnesses, 210,000 hospitalizations and 12,000 deaths attributed to flu.

So far this calendar year, UHCS has seen 334 students for ILI symptoms, with 27 testing positive for flu. The CDC argues that the best way to prevent flu is to get vaccinated, and now is not too late to get that shot.

UHCS still has flu vaccines, and students can get shots free of charge. To schedule an appointment, students can go to myhealthconnect.case.edu. Faculty and staff are encouraged to visit their health care provider to get their vaccine, or various pharmacies that offer walk-in flu shot visits.

“Other than the flu vaccination,” Lee added, “the steps people can take to lower the likelihood of flu closely match the ones advised for avoiding novel coronavirus.”

Those steps include:

  • Frequent handwashing lasting a minimum of 20 seconds
  • Avoiding touching your face
  • Coughing into your elbow
  • Avoiding close contact with others who are sick
  • Getting adequate sleep
  • Cleaning surfaces that are touched often

Those who feel sick—fever, coughing, sneezing, runny nose and the like—are encouraged to stay in their homes or residence hall rooms. They should limit contact with others as much as possible until at least 24 hours after their fever breaks.

For more information, students should contact UHCS at 216.368.2450 or healthservice@case.edu. Faculty and staff should contact their health care provider.