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  • Marit Hickey, Staff Writer

Opinion: How the “WU Flu” impacts you


Art by Maille Olgyay

Since time immemorial, college students have faced many challenges. Of the issues that are not admittedly self-inflicted, the award for the most inconvenient, annoying and persistent problem has to go to the cold-like infections so easily spread on a college campus.


Although word of the “WU Flu” or “Campus Cough” is going around, the reality is that the cold and flu season is not yet in full swing, and it is important to be prepared for when these illnesses fully hit Willamette’s campus.


Don Thomson, Willamette’s associate dean for health and wellness and the director of the Bishop Wellness Center, talked about what sick students can do to help prevent the spread of illness. “The most important thing we tell students to do is if you’re sick, stay home. If you go to class when you’re sick, you’re more likely to spread what you have to other people. Take care of yourself and rest,” he said. When asked about masking, Thomson added that masks are another very crucial tool in preventing the spread of sickness, especially within cramped or crowded spaces.


Residential life on campus, synonymous with close quarters, is a key part of what allows illness to spread so quickly among college students. If you’re living with someone who is sick (a roommate, housemate, etc.), Thomson said, “As long as you don’t have symptoms, you can go to class. [Do] anything you can do to keep surfaces clean, and do all the things that boost your immune system like resting and staying hydrated.”


Most colds are easily fought with time and the free medication that Bishop keeps stocked outside of its door when it is open, including grab-and-go care bags for colds that include ibuprofen, cough drops, disposable thermometers and information about how to use the supplies. However, if a student is experiencing a fever that is not breaking or responding to over-the-counter medicines like Tylenol or ibuprofen, they should call Bishop to get the care they need.


Currently, Bishop does not provide flu shots, though students should keep an eye open for any updates. Flu shots are highly encouraged and are easily available at most grocery stores and pharmacies. To find the nearest flu shot provider, students can use the search function on vaccines.gov and type in Salem’s zip code, 97301. From there, local options can easily be viewed. There is also an option to see locations that offer COVID-19 boosters, which are also recommended especially for college students.


Getting vaccinated before the peak of flu season not only helps prevent illness, but it also lessens the severity of any symptoms you might experience if you catch it. It also helps build up herd immunity, the idea that if enough of the population gains immunity to an illness, it can slow or halt its spread entirely, which is especially important considering there is a non-insignificant amount of people who are immunocompromised or cannot get vaccinated in the first place. These people are disproportionately affected by more mild infections that others may be able to shrug off. Similar to COVID-19, while some can get over the flu relatively quickly, others who are vulnerable and rely on herd immunity may have prolonged health issues that can be life-changing.


Just because events like the cold and flu season may appear trivial, it does not mean that it is acceptable to shirk the responsibility of containing illness. People who belong to these vulnerable groups are everywhere, are of every age and might all have different conditions. For example, people undergoing treatment for cancer are heavily impacted by mild infections. People who have asthma are more likely to have serious respiratory symptoms. Anyone around you could be at greater risk if they fell ill.


This is why students should care about the WU Flu, and be responsible when sick. It’s not just one’s own health and wellbeing that is at stake. As a part of a small and tight-knit community, we need to be aware of how our actions affect others in more ways than one, and this is an action Willamette students can easily take to help support each other this time of year.


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Greg Carver
Greg Carver
Nov 02, 2023

I did not see any mention of frequent hand washing.

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