Flu season is starting; take steps now to stay protected

Person holding thermometer

As seasonal influenza is expected to increase over the next several weeks, members of the University of Oregon community are encouraged to take steps to protect themselves.

Commonly known as the flu, the virus is detected year-round in the United States. But flu viruses are most common during the fall and winter, says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The exact timing and duration of flu season varies. Influenza activity often begins to increase in October, and most of the time flu activity peaks between December and February.

“This year it is anticipated the flu season may come earlier and strike harder due to the amount of isolation we were in last year,” said Deb Beck, assistant vice president for student services and enrollment management and executive director of University Health Services. “The flu season isn’t in full swing yet, but I anticipate we will begin seeing more cases in the next several weeks.”

The flu can be mild to severe, even causing death. Everyone is at risk of getting the flu, including healthy people. Some people are at higher risk of more severe illness and ensuing complications.

“The best way to reduce your risk from seasonal flu, its potentially serious complications, and the disruption it can bring to your life is to get vaccinated every year,” Beck said.

Flu usually comes on suddenly and symptoms include fever, chills, cough, sore throat, runny nose, body aches and fatigue. Those experiencing any of these symptoms should not come to campus and check in with their medical provider.

Cold and flu-like symptoms are among the most common reasons students miss class and employees miss work. Here are some tips to help prevent illness and how to seek care when feeling under the weather.

  • An annual influenza vaccine, or flu shot, is strongly recommended to protect against seasonal strains of influenza virus. This year, a flu shot is more important than ever.
  • Getting plenty of sleep, making healthy food choices, staying hydrated and reducing stress are basic practices that can improve a person’s ability to stay healthy.

Students can get vaccinated at University Health Services. Call 541-346-2770 for an appointment or self-care advice, even after hours.

For all UO community members, flu vaccines are available through primary medical providers and pharmacies as well as many walk-in medical clinics and urgent care centers. Faculty and staff members should contact their provider or preferred pharmacy to obtain more information about availability and cost.

UO employees enrolled in PEBB benefits can receive a flu shot at no cost. Most other insurance plans provide similar coverage. Flu vaccines are also available at local health departments regardless of insurance coverage.

Getting a flu shot is more important than ever before because it protects against serious illness and helps reduce the strain on health care systems as they continue responding to the COVID-19 pandemic. Learn more about seasonal influenza prevention on the CDC website.