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Tracking COVID-19 at UCLACampus Safety

The Quad: Flu season can be difficult to navigate, but it doesn’t have to be

(Jeanie Kwon/Assistant Graphics editor)

By Passa Pungchai

Jan. 7, 2020 7:04 p.m.

Students returning to campus winter quarter have one more thing to worry about in addition to homework and tests: flu season.

During spring quarter freshman year, I caught a case of the flu during a week with two midterms. I woke up the morning of my physics midterm with a fever, sniffled my way through the exam, and then crept back to my dorm to sneeze through my organic chemistry problem sets in preparation for the next test. Needless to say, it was not fun.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, flu season usually peaks between December and February, but can last until May, as if the dreary winter quarter isn’t enough to get Bruins’ spirits down.

The flu usually spreads from contact with an infected person, though it can also be contracted by touching a virus-infected surface and then touching your mouth, nose or face.

Unfortunately, a tightly packed college campus presents ample opportunity for infection. After all, think of all of the people we find ourselves in close proximity to on a day-to-day basis: roommates, classmates, study groups and club members are all potential disease carriers or soon-to-be victims.

The echoes of coughs and sneezes in a crowded lecture hall are ominous to all, not because the disease is extremely serious for young adults, but because its symptoms are so debilitating. Those inflected often experience fever, chills, cough, sore throat, body aches, runny nose and fatigue. On the quarter system, being out of commission for even a few days can mean missing a lot of material, perhaps leading to a lower GPA.

[Related: Campus Queries: What makes this flu season so bad?]

If you should contract the flu, there are definitely steps to take to prevent this from occurring. Forming study groups beforehand, asking peers to record lectures and emailing teaching assistants when you can’t make it to class are all good ways to prevent your grades from taking a hit. You can also look into free extra tutoring from organizations such as Tau Beta Pi, the Academic Advancement Program, the Undergraduate Writing Center or the Student Math Center to catch up.

It’s usually not a death sentence to catch the flu, but you’re probably hoping to avoid it, if possible. So, how do we prevent it from spreading in the first place?

First of all, experts recommend getting the flu vaccine. UCLA students can schedule a free appointment to receive the vaccine at the UCLA Arthur Ashe Student Health & Wellness Center. This service is covered for all students regardless of insurance plan.

For Bruins flying back to campus, airplanes are tight quarters, presenting an opportunity for infection. A 2018 study from the University of Florida found that an infected airline attendant could possibly infect 4.6 other people, while an infected passenger could infect 0.7 other people. Experts suggest frequent hand-washing and choosing the window seat to avoid infection.

In the household, the University of Hong Kong found empirically that the chance of infection increases by 38% when another individual is infected. Once again, washing your hands and avoiding contact are key. You might want to refrain from holding hands and cuddling with loved ones for a short while!

If you’ve already contracted the flu, fear not – just remember that those infected with the flu can be contagious five to seven days after the onset of symptoms, or for one day before symptoms begin. Be courteous to others and avoid personal contact for a week, even if you feel better. Furthermore, try to clean your living space with sanitary wipes and other hygiene supplies to kill any remaining viruses on common surfaces.

For the rest of you still trying to dodge this disease, simple steps such as getting vaccinations, being clean and avoiding contact with infected people can go a long way in staying happy and healthy in the new quarter and new year.

There’s no surefire guarantee against the flu, but implementing the right precautions can help a lot in keeping your college life flu-free!

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