What to do if you get sick

Contact: Don Thomson

Here are some reminders for taking care of yourself if you have a cold, the flu, or COVID this fall.

The fall will bring the return of cold and flu season on campus. And of course, we are also still navigating the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Because the symptoms of cold and flu often mirror symptoms of COVID, we write to remind everyone of a few things.

  • Symptoms of COVID include: Fever or chills, cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, fatigue, muscle or body aches, headache, new loss of taste or smell, sore throat, congestion or runny nose, nausea or vomiting, diarrhea 
  • Symptoms of the flu include: Sudden onset of fever, chills, body aches, headache, cough, sore throat, dizziness, fatigue, and vomiting
  • Symptoms of a cold include: Milder cough, sore throat or fatigue, runny or stuffy nose, and sneezing

Additionally, below are some reminders and updates as we start the fall semester.

Stay home if you are sick and communicate with your faculty

The most important thing you can do if you are sick is to stay home and out of classes and activities. Most people who get sick with a cold, flu, or COVID have mild illness and can recover at home without medical care. If you test positive for COVID, do not leave your home or other places of isolation, except to get medical care. You should also email your faculty if you miss class to make up any missed work, assignments, or exams.

Have an adequate supply of home COVID testing kits available

The CDC recommends testing if you have symptoms of COVID-19 or at least 5 days after known or suspected close contact to COVID-19. We strongly encourage everyone to have an ample supply of at-home rapid tests on hand to use for both of these purposes. You can order your free testing kits from the federal government.  Bishop is not able to distribute at-home tests to students.  

It is rumored that the federal government may stop providing free tests in anticipation of cold and flu season, so get yours now! Additionally, your health insurance company will reimburse you for eight (8) at-home tests per month for each person on your plan. You can learn more about insurance reimbursement here.

Bishop Wellness Center will continue to offer COVID testing to students sick with symptoms of COVID or those who are known or suspected close contacts of someone with COVID. PCR tests will be billed to the student's insurance directly by outside labs. There may be a charge for rapid tests, depending on availability.  Students who primarily access the Portland campuses or commute from outside of Salem can find a testing location close to them by using the Oregon Health Authority’s Testing Site Finder

Anyone testing positive should isolate

The current CDC guidance states that anyone with COVID-19 should isolate from other people for at least 5 full days, though this may be longer if symptoms continue. Willamette does not require a negative COVID test to return to classes or work.

Wear a mask and test after day 5 if you are exposed to someone with COVID

The CDC is no longer recommending quarantine for people who are identified as a close contact to someone who tests positive for COVID-19, regardless of vaccination status. If you have had a recent confirmed or suspected exposure to an infected person, you should wear a well-fitting mask for 10 days around others when indoors in public and should test at least 5 days after exposure (or sooner, if you are symptomatic).

Flu shots

The single best way to reduce the risk of seasonal flu and its potentially serious complications is to get vaccinated each year, but good health habits like avoiding people who are sick, covering your cough and washing your hands often can help stop the spread of germs and prevent respiratory illnesses like flu.

You can use the vaccines.gov vaccine finder to find locations that have flu shots available proximate to all of Willamette’s campuses. Bishop also has flu shots available for free for those with the student insurance and for $30 to those who do not. Call (503) 370-6062 to get yours.

Practice good cold and flu season hygiene

The best way to prevent infection is to protect yourself from germs and viruses. Covering coughs and sneezes and keeping hands clean can help prevent the spread of respiratory illnesses like flu, colds, and COVID-19. 

Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze

  • Throw used tissues in the trash.
  • If you don’t have a tissue, cough or sneeze into your elbow, not your hands.
  • Remember to immediately wash your hands after blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing.

Washing your hands is one of the most effective ways to prevent yourself and your loved ones from getting sick, especially at key times when you are likely to get and spread germs.

  • Wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
  • If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol to clean your hands.

Be well,

Don Thomson

Associate Dean of Health and Well-being

Willamette University

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