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Health Center advises on staying healthy during flu season on campus

The Brandeis Health Center staff recommended community members get vaccinated for COVID-19 and the flu when advising the study body on how to approach the cold and flu season while the COVID-19 pandemic continues, said LaShaun Shaw, Administrative Director of The Brandeis Health Center, in an interview with The Brandeis Hoot. 

For the past 18 months, the Health Center has been at the forefront of Brandeis’ COVID-19 response, making it their mission to provide students with the care they need, said Shaw in the interview.  

To stay informed on colds and flus, the Health and Wellness promotion program, offered through the Brandeis Health Center, has a webpage dedicated to the care and prevention of colds and flus as a resource for students, according to the Cold and Flu webpage. The page provides information for students and community members on how best to combat the cold and flu season, while also remaining safe from COVID-19. 

“The best way to prevent catching a cold or flu is to wash your hands frequently and get your annual influenza vaccination,” according to the page

The flu and COVID-19 are both contagious respiratory illnesses, according to the webpage, but are different viruses. COVID-19 comes from a strand of coronavirus referred to as SARS-CoV-2, whereas the flu is caused by influenza viruses, according to the page. Due to having similar symptoms, individuals may need to get tested to confirm either diagnosis. 

According to the page, COVID-19 and the flu have various overlapping symptoms with varying degrees of severity. Some individuals can be asymptomatic, meaning they have no symptoms, whereas others may have severe symptoms. Common symptoms shared by both illnesses include fever, chills, cough, shortness of breath, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, muscle pain, body aches and headache, according to the page.

The major difference between COVID-19 and the flu is the change in or loss of taste or smell, according to the page. Students should monitor their symptoms on the Daily Health Assessment Tool, that way the Health Center is aware of the illness and a nurse can then advise the students on the proper next steps, including getting tested for both COVID-19 and the flu, said Shaw. 

The Health Center advises that students with underlying medical conditions contact the Health Center due to an increased risk of complications due to illness, according to the page. The most common types of colds and flus are “self-limiting viral infections,” according to the page. Bacterial infections can lead to complications for those who get sick; community members should follow up with a medical assessment if they think there is a bacterial infection. 

The Health Center has a separate respiratory unit with a negative pressure room (an isolated space specially designed to contain contaminated air), Shaw told The Hoot, saying this makes the Health Center better equipped for this year’s flu season.

When asked about some of the challenges that the Health Center faced last fall, when COVID-19 was still relatively new, Shaw spoke of the Health Center’s efforts to train and educate personnel, medical providers and the student body. In preparation for cold and flu season this year, Shaw spoke of the lessons learned from our previous academic year, including that health and safety guidelines remain unchanged including masking up, quarantining when sick and, if able, getting vaccinated for both COVID-19 and the flu. 

The university is offering flu shots for all community members; the vaccination clinic is running the week of Oct. 4 through Oct. 8, according to an email sent to community members by Morgen Bergman. 

The Brandeis Health Center offers various services for students including vaccinations, same-day urgent care appointments as well as health and wellness educational resources, according to their page. The Health Center is located in the Golding-Stoneman Building on campus and is open every weekday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. (except on Tuesdays when it is closed from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m. for staff meetings), according to their page. The Health Center is not open on the weekends; for emergency assistance students can call Brandeis Public Safety at 781-736-3333 if they are on-campus.

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