Fight the Flu PSU!
#FightFluPSU is an annual campaign from September to February to spread awareness and educate Penn State students on influenza. Below you will find helpful information and resources on how YOU can fight the flu.
What is influenza (flu)?
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the flu is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses that infect the nose, throat, and sometimes the lungs. It can cause mild to severe illness, and at times can lead to death. The best way to prevent flu is by getting a flu vaccine each year.
- Flu Symptoms
Influenza (flu) can cause mild to severe illness, and at times can lead to death. Flu is different from a cold. Flu usually comes on suddenly. People who have flu often feel some or all of these symptoms:
- fever* or feeling feverish/chills
- sore throat
- runny or stuffy nose
- muscle or body aches
- fatigue (tiredness)
- some people may have vomiting and diarrhea, though this is more common in children than adults.
*It’s important to note that not everyone with flu will have a fever.
- How Flu Spreads
Most experts believe that flu viruses spread mainly by tiny droplets made when people with flu cough, sneeze or talk. These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby. Less often, a person might get flu by touching a surface or object that has flu virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose or possibly their eyes.
- Period of Contagiousness
You may be able to spread flu to someone else before you know you are sick, as well as while you are sick.
- People with flu are most contagious in the first 3-4 days after their illness begins.
- Some otherwise healthy adults may be able to infect others beginning 1 day before symptoms develop and up to 5 to 7 days after becoming sick.
- Some people, especially young children and people with weakened immune systems, might be able to infect others for an even longer time.
- People at High Risk
Anyone can get flu (even healthy people), and serious problems related to flu can happen at any age, but some people are at high risk of developing serious flu-related complications if they get sick. This includes people 65 years and older, people of any age with certain chronic medical conditions (such as asthma, diabetes, or heart disease), pregnant women, and children younger than 5 years.
Students at the University Park campus can receive flu shots from UHS. Students may schedule an appointment at the flu clinics or a private appointment through myUHS.
UHS Flu Vaccine Clinics
Each fall, University Health Services hosts a series of student flu vaccine clinics at the University Park campus. Students must schedule an appointment in advance to receive a flu vaccine during any of the clinics; students at Commonwealth Campus locations are encouraged to contact their on-campus health service (if applicable) or local a provider to inquire about clinics in their area.
Students are also welcome to schedule a private appointment with University Health Services to receive the flu vaccine at any time.
For more details and dates on the flu clinics please visit the Flu Clinics webpage.
There are many misconceptions and myths surrounding the flu which can cause many people to not get the vaccination. Check out some of the most common misconceptions below:
- Myth: The flu vaccine can give you the flu
Flu vaccines cannot cause flu illness. Flu vaccines given with a needle (i.e., flu shots) are made with either inactivated (killed) viruses, or with only a single protein from the flu virus. The nasal spray vaccine contains live viruses that are attenuated (weakened) so that they will not cause illness.
- Myth: It’s better to get sick with flu than to get a flu vaccine
The flu can be a serious disease, particularly among young children, older adults, and people with certain chronic health conditions, such as asthma, heart disease, or diabetes.
Any flu infection can carry a risk of serious complications, hospitalization, or death, even among otherwise healthy children and adults. Therefore, getting vaccinated is a safer choice than risking illness to obtain immune protection.
- Myth: Healthy people don’t need to be vaccinated
Even healthy folks can benefit from being vaccinated. The CDC recommends yearly vaccination against influenza for everyone older than 6 months of age, including pregnant women.
- Myth: You don’t need to get the flu shot every year
The influenza virus changes (mutates) each year. Getting vaccinated each year is important to make sure you have immunity to the strains most likely to cause an outbreak.
- Myth: You can't spread the flu if you're feeling well.
Actually, 20% to 30% of people carrying the influenza virus have no symptoms.
- Myth: I don’t need the vaccine; I never get the flu
Unfortunately, a flu-free history does not guarantee a flu-free future. Flu strains evolve and change over time, which means you are at risk every year you avoid getting vaccinated. In addition, when you skip your shot you can still carry and pass flu germs to others.
- Myth: The flu is nothing more than just a bad cold
Flu is not just a bad cold—it can be far more serious, and can cause high fever, headaches, and body aches, chills, and severe fatigue for up to 2 weeks or more. Flu can also lead to more serious complications and even death. In the US, millions of people get sick, hundreds of thousands are hospitalized, and thousands or tens of thousands die from the flu every year.
- Myth: Vaccines can be dangerous and may have adverse health effects.
Almost all individuals who get vaccinated against flu do not experience serious side effects. Some may experience a sore arm at the injection site. Those who receive a flu vaccine may experience fever, muscle pain, and feelings of discomfort or weakness. These side effects typically last 1-2 days after vaccination and are much less severe than actual flu illness. The risk of a flu vaccine causing serious harm or death is extremely small.
The Flu & COVID-19
There are many similarities between influenza (flu) and COVID-19. Both are contagious respiratory diseases, and certain populations including older adults, Black and Hispanic persons, and individuals with chronic health conditions are at high-risk for complications from both diseases. Many of the steps that help stop the spread of COVID-19 can also help protect against flu, but the best way to help prevent flu is to get vaccinated every year. Flu vaccination is especially important this year to help protect individuals and prevent additional strain on an already overburdened US healthcare system.
Below are some FAQs that surround the flu and COVID-19 from the CDC.
- What's the difference between influenza (flu) and COVID-19?
Influenza (Flu) and COVID-19 are both contagious respiratory illnesses, but they are caused by different viruses. COVID-19 is caused by infection with a new coronavirus (called SARS-CoV-2) and flu is caused by infection with influenza viruses. Because some of the symptoms of flu and COVID-19 are similar, it may be hard to tell the difference between them based on symptoms alone, and testing may be needed to help confirm a diagnosis.
- COVID-19 seems to spread more easily than flu and causes more serious illnesses in some people
- COVID-19 can take longer before people show symptoms and people can be contagious for longer
- There is a vaccine to protect against flu. There is currently no vaccine to prevent COVID-19
- Can I have the flu and COVID-19 at the same time?
Yes. It is possible to have flu, as well as other respiratory illnesses, and COVID-19 at the same time. Health experts are still studying how common this can be.
Some of the symptoms of flu and COVID-19 are similar, making it hard to tell the difference between them based on symptoms alone. Diagnostic testing can help determine if you are sick with flu or COVID-19.
- Is COVID-19 more dangerous than the flu?
Flu and COVID-19 can both result in serious illness, including illness resulting in hospitalization or death. While there is still much to learn about COVID-19, at this time, it does seem as if COVID-19 is more deadly than seasonal influenza; however, it is too early to draw any conclusions from the current data. This may change as we learn more about the number of people who are infected who have mild illnesses.
- Does a flu vaccine increase your risk of getting COVID-19?
There is no evidence that getting a flu vaccination increases your risk of getting sick from a coronavirus, like the one that causes COVID-19.