As life on campus begins returning to in-person classes amid the pandemic, Health Services see seasonal flu and colds on the rise.  PHOTO CREDIT: Elizabeth Wong

Health Services at the University of Rhode Island is currently facing an influx of non-COVID-19 related illnesses as cold and flu season approaches. 

With the help of vaccinated community members and work done by the Health Services staff, URI has managed to keep COVID-19 numbers low so far this fall. But with the return of students to in-person classes, other viral illnesses have begun circulating among the student population.

According to Chris Nasin, the medical director of Health Services, this is an indication of life returning to normal on campus.

“Now that [masking and social distancing] have been relaxed, in many instances, we’re seeing exactly what we used to see,” he said.

Nasin said that common illnesses, including pink eye, sore throats and coughs are being reported far more frequently than last year. Symptoms of these viruses can last anywhere from four to ten days.

Health Services is doing its best to help students by providing any help they can to those who request assistance, according to Nasin.

“As you know, viral illnesses don’t have real treatment,” he said. “We’ll distribute medications to help control symptoms and things of that nature, but people have to sort of weather the storm.” 

Students experiencing any health issues are encouraged to reach out to Health Services, where they will schedule a COVID-19 test to rule out any possibility of infection. The medical staff will work to diagnose and treat the illness from there, Nasin said. 

Although breakthrough cases are uncommon, Nasin hopes that vaccinated community will still participate in COVID-19 testing if they are experiencing symptoms that align with the virus. That way, students are not unknowingly exposing classmates to COVID-19 thinking it is only a common cold.

“If I have a cold, non-COVID, and then I hang out with you for dinner, and then I give you the cold, now you have to get COVID tested,” he said. “So we want to try to contain the viral diseases as much as we can to make sure our students are well and they’re able to go to class.”

Even when a student is diagnosed with a virus other than COVID-19, Nasin hopes that masks will be worn by sick students to reduce the spread of all illnesses on campus. 

Nasin strongly advised all students to get the annual flu shot and to properly support their body to avoid this collection of viruses that many have referred to as the “megacold.” 

“I would encourage my students to stay hydrated, to eat a healthy diet and to get at least eight hours of sleep per night,” he said. 

In addition to viral infections, Health Services reported an uptick in injuries when compared to the 2020-2021 academic year.

Ellen Reynolds, the assistant vice president for student health and wellness, as well as the director of Health Services. She said that these injuries are common, especially considering the reintroduction of co-curricular activities.

“We’re seeing fractures and people participating in different things, so it feels good to [get closer to] normal,” she said.

Both Nasin and Reynolds remain adamant that students should contact Health Services if they require medical attention, even if their symptoms are mild, to keep campus safe from all illnesses. 

Registered nurses are available seven days a week for appointments at Health Services in the Potter Building along Butterfield Road. COVID-19 surveillance testing is also available at the Memorial Union Atrium 1 on weekdays. Symptomatic students should schedule a test to rule out COVID-19 before a healthcare provider can proceed with a diagnosis. 

Reynolds is hopeful that students will continue to use Health Services as a resource to keep the community safe as the seasons change.

“It is important that we are here [for students] if they do need us, even just answering questions,” she said. “We have registered nurses and others who are here to help give health education and allow students to manage their illnesses.”