Flu and COVID-19 FAQ's

As we continue to work to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 within our campus community, we must also prepare for the beginning of the cold and flu season. Experts are projecting an increase in flu activity this year; however, we can help stop the spread of colds, flu and other viruses on our campus if we continue to follow many of the preventive measures that are already in place and get our flu shot.

This year in particular, while we are in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is extremely important to get a flu shot as soon as possible to help prevent a co-infection with both viruses. Because we did not experience a true flu season last year, medical experts don’t yet know how having both viruses simultaneously might impact one’s health. 

Below are some frequently asked questions that may address some of your concerns about flu, flu vaccine, colds, and COVID-19. 

Frequently Asked Questions about the Flu Vaccine

Does the University Health Center recommend getting the Flu Shot?

Yes. The University Health Center encourages students, faculty and staff to get the flu shot every year. Students and others with underlying medical conditions are also strongly advised  to get the flu vaccine.

 

Can I receive the COVID-19 vaccine or a booster and the flu shot at the same time?

Yes. If you are planning to get the COVID-19 vaccine or a booster and the flu shot, studies have shown that you can get them both at the same time and you don’t need to wait.

How can I tell if I have the Flu vs. COVID-19?

Influenza (“the flu”) and COVID-19 are contagious respiratory illnesses that are caused by different viruses. However, because they can have similar varying degrees of signs and symptoms, ranging from no symptoms (asymptomatic) to severe symptoms, it can be difficult to distinguish them on the basis of symptoms alone. Common symptoms shared between COVID-19 and the flu include:

  • Fever or feeling feverish/having chills
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Fatigue (tiredness)
  • Sore throat
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Muscle pain or body aches
  • Headache
  • Vomiting and diarrhea
  • Change in or loss of taste or smell, although this is more frequent with COVID-19

Typically, a person experiences flu symptoms anywhere from 1 to 4 days after infection; and a person experiences COVID-19 symptoms 2 to 14 days after infection. Cold symptoms (from other respiratory viruses) can also be similar, but are usually milder.

What should I do if I am experiencing symptoms?

Because it is hard to distinguish between the cold, the flu and COVID-19, anyone experiencing the symptoms listed above should first get tested for COVID-19 at the UHC testing tent or contact the HEAL line for advice. 

Once you know that you don’t have COVID-19, what you should do next depends on your symptoms. If you test negative for COVID-19 and have a fever (defined as a measured temperature of 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit or higher), you are advised to stay home from class or work until you have been fever free for 24 hours without fever-reducing medication (like Tylenol or Advil). You should also consider seeking medical care any time you feel unwell, and call the UHC with any questions or concerns. If you test negative for COVID-19 and do not have a fever, but have only mild symptoms of the common cold, you can generally continue to attend class and go to work if you feel well enough. Please be sure to follow guidance to prevent spreading germs to others.  

As always, if you are really feeling unwell, we advise you to stay home and seek medical care. 

 

When should people get the Flu Shot?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the best time to  get the flu shot is in September and October.  However as long as the flu is circulating, it’s beneficial to receive the flu shot  through January or later. 

 

Where can I get a flu shot?

The University Health Center has the flu vaccine available.  There are also many locations in and around College Park where you can find the flu vaccine. The CDC has a flu vaccine finder on their website to help you find the most convenient location for you.

 

 

In addition to getting the flu shot, how else can a person prevent the Flu?

The University Health Center encourages getting the flu vaccine in addition to maintaining good hygiene practices. These include frequent handwashing with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or using hand sanitizer, covering your mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing by using your elbow or tissue and properly disposing of used tissues, frequently cleaning high touch surfaces, getting 7-9 hours of sleep regularly, eating nutritious meals, staying hydrated, managing stress, avoiding close contact with others, and staying home when sick. Encouraging friends and family to also get the flu shot and follow these recommendations will help prevent the spread of the flu.

What should a person do if they get the Flu?

For most individuals, the flu can be treated at home with rest, monitoring temperature and taking fever reducers (such as Tylenol or Advil), preventing dehydration by drinking water, taking in clear liquids, treating your cough and sore throat using lozenges, honey, and decaffeinated tea or over the counter cold medications. However, it is important that those who are immune-suppressed seek medical care within the first 24-48 hours of symptom onset.  If the flu is diagnosed within 48 hours of the symptom onset, in some cases antiviral medications can be prescribed which may help shorten the duration of symptoms and lessen the chances of developing complications of the flu. Antibiotics will not treat the flu, since the flu is caused by the influenza virus. 

 

Since a fever is a symptom of both the flu and COVID, will students who self-report a high fever, or other shared symptoms, have to move into isolation housing?

Keep in mind that we are still learning more and more about COVID-19 regularly, and that this will be the first time we will be dealing with both COVID-19 and Influenza together.  A decision about isolation housing will depend on each individual's medical evaluation. This may factor in whether the person was exposed to a known case of COVID-19 and the results of a rapid influenza test.

Will a COVID test or flu test be available to make the distinction for people who report symptoms?

The University Health Center can perform both a rapid influenza test and a rapid COVID antigen test, with results typically available in around 30-60 minutes.

If a student is sent to isolation housing but it is actually the flu, will they be required to stay in isolation housing for the remainder of the time?

If a student has flu-like or COVID-like symptoms, a flu test can be performed in the office to determine if influenza is the cause.  The student will be advised to isolate only if a provider feels that they have a presumed case of COVID-19.

How can I be excused from class?

Students who are sick and unable to attend class should follow the university’s Excused Absence Policy and communicate with their professors. Faculty should provide students who must be absent an opportunity to make up missed work, as they have always done, in ways that are appropriate to the delivery method, course materials, and course content. Employees should be in touch with their supervisors if they are unable to work due to illness.