There has been a marked rise in viral respiratory illnesses such as cold and flu in the fall and winter months, which are referred to as cold and flu season. The seasonality of respiratory viral infections reveals the tendency of respiratory viruses to enhance the ability to spread in the cooler months from November to April.
Physicians of Student Health and Wellness and the U.Va. Health provides guidance on ways to prevent the spread of infection and relieve symptoms, as students experience such a sudden rise in illness in the fall.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, colds and flu have similar symptoms like a runny or stuffy nose, cough, and sore throat — however, cold symptoms tend to be milder than flu symptoms. For example, it is common to have a fever and chills for the flu while these symptoms tend to be less common for the common cold.
Although these two have multiple overlapping symptoms, they are caused by different viruses. Influenza is caused only by influenza viruses, while the common cold is caused by more than 200 different viruses, according to the American Lung Association.
James Nataro, MD, pediatric infectious disease specialist and chief of pediatrics at UVI. Health, he said, that there are generally two ways these viruses can be transmitted – through touching fomites or through droplets in the air containing viral particles. The extent to which each type of transmission occurs depends on the biological characteristics of the virus, but respiratory viruses such as cold, influenza, and COVID-19 tend to have much in common.
“Most of the respiratory viruses that we know about and things like the common cold virus and SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19 — these are viruses that spread by big droplets, so we can say that, you know, six feet radius, right, it’s probably safe ‘ said Nataro. “The big droplets are those… that you might release while sneezing or even talking, but they are too heavy to travel more than three to say eight feet.”
Nataro said that common cold viruses tend to be more stable on surfaces, and therefore are certainly transmissible through nonliving materials that are likely sites of transmission.
“Every virus has a protein envelope of some sort, and there are viruses in which the protein envelope is the outermost part of the virus, and some are very stable on surfaces,” Nataro said. “So they [the virus particles] It starts oozing you or drooling or mucus or something like that, and it floats to the surface, and it can survive long periods on those surfaces even after drying.”
Given that both cold and flu are caused by respiratory viruses that tend to follow a similar transmission pattern, they also tend to have the same seasonality observed in the winter months.
Shawn Moore, MD, pediatric gastroenterologist at UV. Health, said the seasonality of cold and flu may be due to the influence of weather on people’s habits. Moore said school attendance is a major contributor to the spread of viral respiratory infections.
“When you bring a lot of people indoors, a lot of kids inside, in … the fall season, that’s when you will see a lot of opportunities for seasonal flu and other respiratory viruses to spread,” Moore said.
Nataro said some contributing factors such as being indoors and cold, dry air explain the seasonality of respiratory viruses, but acknowledged that clinicians partially understand why seasonality is observed.
“Being indoors definitely boosts transmission — there’s no doubt about that,” Nataro said. “And [as] The air cools and the humidity drops, and this also seems to enhance the transmission of some viruses. It also appears that any effect of very cold air on the human respiratory system has a contribution.”
Since the university resumed more normal operations in the fall, students have moved to in-person tutoring as well as other indoor activities – such as living in dorms and dining in the dining halls. In an article by AIMS Press on controlling the spread of COVID-19 on college campuses, researchers at Duke University used complex mathematical models to determine how to suppress the spread of COVID-19 in dorms and classrooms.
The researchers found that single dorms rather than double dorms significantly reduced the spread of the virus. In addition, they found that large classrooms increased transmission of the virus, and they were trying to determine the threshold – class size – to move classes online to prevent outbreaks. They find that this threshold will depend on how contagious the disease is in the classroom.
Sophomore college sophomore Grace Cole caught a cold during mid-September and suspects she caught it from someone she came into contact with.
“I got sick after noticing other people around me were infected,” Cole said. “I was really shocked that I hadn’t been sick in a really long time because we had been wearing masks for so long, and I hadn’t been in school for a year.”
Moore said last year’s flu season was the mildest flu season observed in history in both the northern and southern hemispheres, likely due to enforced social distancing and mask wearing amid the COVID-19 pandemic. A CDC article on the 2020-2021 flu season asserts that flu activity has been unusually low in the United States and globally despite high levels of testing. The article states that possible explanations for lower flu activity include mitigating COVID-19 such as wearing masks, staying home, closing schools, and reducing travel and physical distance.
In an email statement to The Cavalier Daily, a team of clinicians from Student Health outline healthy habits that can prevent the spread of viral respiratory illnesses as well as ways in which Student Health is implementing influenza vaccination management this fall. The team of physicians included Meredith Hayden, Associate Executive Director of Student Health and Wellness, Jessica Simmons, Director of Medical Services, Stephanie Hartman, Associate Director of Primary Care and Medical Services and Jamie Leonard, Director of the Office of Health Promotion.
The team recommended that students get a flu shot and a COVID-19 booster vaccine as soon as possible. The Virginia Department of Health recommends that people 18 and older receive a booster dose at least six months after the initial series. Doctors from Student Health also provided guidance for students with cold or flu symptoms.
“if [students] “They’re feeling sick with flu-like symptoms, they shouldn’t go to class,” the team of doctors said. “Alternatively, they can seek medical advice from students’ health and wellness and get tested for influenza and/or COVID-19. Wearing face masks, washing hands, spending time outdoors when in groups or if eating will also reduce the spread of influenza and respiratory illness. other”.
Students can also use the Flu Vaccines webpage to find pharmacies near the territory that offer flu vaccines.
Outside of vaccinations, there are no drugs designed to help the immune system fight off cold and flu viruses once the body is infected with a specific virus. It is important to note that antibiotics – which are used to fight bacterial infections – are not prescribed for colds and flu. Cold and flu medicines are used to relieve symptoms of illness rather than treat it. Once the virus is detected, it is up to the immune system to handle the healing process.
To relieve cold and flu symptoms, Moore made some recommendations.
“For young people with sore throat or cough symptoms, as part of a cold, I would usually recommend honey,” Moore said. “I would also recommend using humidified air, taking Tylenol or Motrin as needed for any fever, and…be sure to drink plenty of fluids and try to catch up on sleep.”