Along with concerns of an increase in COVID-19 cases, WVU Medicine is preparing flu vaccine procedures that will be made available to all students, faculty and staff on campus.
“There is a risk of catching both the flu and COVID-19 this year, which puts you, your friends, your family and the community at risk,” said Dr. Carmen Burrell, medical director of the WVU Medicine Urgent Center and Student Health Services. “It's especially important this year to get your flu vaccine to protect you and those around you.”
Dependent family members and retirees are also being provided drive-thru or on-campus options this year.
Burrell said flu shots are a fully-covered service under the Public Employees Insurance Agency and The Health Plan for insured employees, spouses and dependent family members. Flu shots also are covered for students under the Aetna Student Health insurance plan.
For those not insured through these providers, they may also bill their insurance as most insurance plans cover the cost of flu vaccinations.
Students are encouraged to schedule an in-person appointment to receive their flu shot on select days running Oct. 8-30 at the WVU Student Rec Center.
Students may also contact WVU Student Health Services at 304-285-7200 to schedule an appointment for their flu vaccination if they are unavailable during the scheduled times at the recreation center.
“It takes less than a minute to receive a flu vaccine, and assuming a student has made an appointment and completed appropriate paperwork in advance, the wait time should be under 10 minutes,” Burrell said.
Vaccines will be offered throughout the year until supplies run out.
With cold and flu season coming up, students are also being urged to be on the lookout for symptoms that may be similar to those of COVID-19.
Elizabeth Newsome, a certified physician's assistant at University Hospitals in Ohio, said that illnesses such as the common cold, influenza, bronchitis, pharyngitis and sinus infections could all present similar symptoms including body aches, fatigue, headaches, decreased appetite, nausea or vomiting, sore throat and cough.
“Besides COVID-19, most viruses that occur during the fall/winter season would be Influenza A and B,” Newsome said. “Unfortunately, the flu has different strands, so each year is slightly different, as well as the common cold, bronchitis, sinus infections, and pneumonia.”
Newsome said that all of these conditions can be both viral and bacterial.
Freshman psychology student Alexis Armentrout said she tested positive for COVID-19 earlier this year, but only had minor symptoms, including a loss of taste, smell and a sore throat.
“I think telling the difference between a cold and the virus is hard,” Armentrout said. “At first, I had thought it was just a simple cold, as all I had was a sore throat. It wasn’t until my smell and taste was gone that I realized something was wrong.”
To combat some confusion, Newsome said that she recommends seeing a physician or medical provider if a person develops a fever of 100.4 degrees for over 48-72 hours, has painful swallowing not relieved with over the counter medications, worsening cough, difficulty breathing or no improvement in symptoms despite rest and supportive care.
The drive-thru clinic is currently being targeted to Monongalia and Preston County community residents who are primary care patients of WVU Medicine, but availability is limited, and individuals must register in advance for a preferred appointment date and time.
Students on campus can make a virtual or in-person appointment with WVU Medicine by calling 855-WVU-CARE or (855-988-2273). From there, students will be able to receive testing for other infections and can be prescribed necessary medication.
Newsome said antibiotics are unable to work or kill off viruses because viruses are made up of different mechanisms to replicate and survive, but bacteria have a different make up such as cell walls that the antibiotics attack and can destroy.
Newsome said that she urges individuals not to assume antibiotics will always be able to cure their symptoms.
An example of this are people with symptoms of a sinus infection, Newsome said. Usually a true bacterial sinus infection is having symptoms for 7-10 days with thick, nasal discharge. Many patients come to the doctors requesting antibiotics for a runny nose and sinus pressure for only a few days.
Newsome said that if symptoms do not improve on their own within several days, a patient should contact their primary care provider. For further information, she said the Center for Disease Control and Prevention website can give great examples of fall and winter illness and which ones need or warrant an antibiotic.
Many providers across WVU Medicine now offer video outpatient care appointments to their established patients. Services available include primary care and pediatric visits, as well as some specialty care. Through an outpatient video visit, students can receive an examination, diagnosis and treatment from a WVU Medicine provider.
The WVU Student Health building and pharmacy is located by the Rec Center and is currently seeing patients in-person with an appointment.