Influenza (the flu) - University of the Sunshine Coast, Queensland, Australia

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Influenza (the flu)

Catching influenza (the flu) doesn't just mean a couple of days in bed, it can mean missing out on important classes and information that puts you behind in your work. This can put your studies at risk and can impact on preparation and performance of your assessment 1.

The flu is not the same as a common cold. Influenza is a highly contagious disease that attacks the upper respiratory tract and lungs that can lead to hospitalisation or death in high-risk groups. People infected may be bed-ridden for one to two weeks or more 2.

Standing near, or sitting next to, an infected person who is coughing or sneezing can be enough for you to contract the virus 3. Avoid unnecessary illness and time away from your studies by exercising daily preventative measures and getting an influenza immunisation injection before the flu season.

Flu facts
If you have the flu, what does it look like?
  • Headaches
  • Fever
  • Sore throat
  • Dry cough
  • Sneezing
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Muscle and joint pain
  • Extreme tiredness and exhaustion
If you have the flu what should you do?
  • Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when coughing and sneezing.
  • Wash your hands regularly.
  • Stay away from campus and limit your contact with other people.
  • See a doctor immediately if you are in the high-risk group.
  • Obtain a medical certificate from your GP stating the dates you are unable to attend university.
  • Contact your lecturers, university friends and study group members by email or phone to retrieve or exchange course material for assignments and tutorial tasks.
  • Use Blackboard via the internet to view lectures online and retrieve tutorial materials.
  • People may be infectious a day before having any obvious symptoms.
  • You can contract influenza by standing near or sitting next to anyone coughing or sneezing airborne droplets containing the virus 1
  • Touching recently contaminated surfaces such as door handles, computer keyboards, books and cutlery then touching your mouth or nose may also expose you to the virus.
High-risk groups are people who
  • have asthma, diabetes, heart disease, kidney disorder, lung disease or impaired immunity
  • have symptoms such as increased fever, shortness of breath, chest pain or rapid breathing
  • are over 65 years of age, or under five years of age.
Preventative measures
  • Immunise with the latest vaccine (bulk–billed flu vaccination clinics are held each year before the onset of flu season for staff and students).
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water or use an alcohol hand rub.
  • Avoid touching your nose and mouth as germs spread this way.
  • Avoid close contact with infected people.
  • Influenza viruses can genetically change and for this reason, seasonal flu vaccines are constantly reformulated.
  • Immunisation is recommended each season with reformulated vaccines to prevent influenza and reduce the impact of epidemics 4.

1. Centres for disease control and prevention, CDC guidance for higher education, Preparing for the Flu: a communication tool kit for institutions of higher education. 2010 Aug. [cited March 2011]. (Archived)  For updated information on the 2013–2014 flu season, see the CDC Seasonal Flu website.
2. World Health Organisation, Health topics: Influenza, 2011 [cited March 2011].
3. Queensland Health, Influenza and immunisation facts, 2011 Jan. [cited March 2011].
4. Department of Health and Ageing, Influenza vaccine, 2011 Feb. [cited March 2011]. For updated information see the Department of Health and Ageing, Influenza vaccine service web page.

The information on this webpage is periodically updated. It was originally compiled in 2011 by Maria Burgess, in a partnership between Student Wellbeing and PUB352 Public Health Project for the USC Health and Wellbeing Project.

Where to find help or read more

Better Health Channel (Victorian Government initiative)  
How flu viruses attack (YouTube link)  
About flu vaccines (YouTube link)