As COVID-19 cases decline, campus sees uptick in influenza A
As of Feb. 21, Dick’s House has documented 23 cases of influenza A.
Over the past few weeks, Dick’s House has recorded an increase in influenza A cases among Dartmouth students — reaching 23 total cases as of Feb. 21 — clinical medical services director Ann Bracken wrote in an emailed statement.
Dick’s House associate director and nurse Daniela Agusti also wrote in an emailed statement that the nursing department has seen more than a 200% increase in triage calls in recent weeks. These numbers only account for students who have contacted the Dartmouth College Health Service and excludes those who may have received an external diagnosis.
Afflicted students have reported a range of symptoms, including “fatigue, fever, coughing, sore throat [and] congestion,” Daniel Lampert ’25, who caught the flu this term, said. While Lampert said the flu has been “way worse” than his experience with COVID-19 earlier this term, Bella Police ’25 said she “felt a little less sick than COVID” but still “pretty bad” when she caught it Tanner Randall ’23 agreed that the flu induced “terrible” symptoms.
“I had not been sidelined that hard probably since high school,” Randall said. “I was in bed, not being able to move, and my stomach was a little bit queasy.”
Randall said he first felt symptoms on Feb. 14, initially attributing his illness to a “hard weekend” of schoolwork. The next day, Randall said he felt like “death” but has now recovered with “some residual chest issues.” Lampert said he got sick on Feb. 15 and was “pretty much bedridden” for the next five days. Police said she started feeling symptoms on the evening of Feb. 16 and “got over it” roughly four days later.
While Bracken wrote that Dick’s House has “nurses available 24/7 to answer questions and has health service staff available to evaluate students if needed,” Randall said that he had to ask more than once to be tested for the flu, as Dick’s House nurses wanted to free up space for other appointments. He added that determining the cause of his illness did not seem like Dick’s House’s “top priority.”
“I'm sure they’re overwhelmed and there’s a lot of the campus [that is sick], and I do feel for that,” Randall said. “But it definitely seemed as though they kind of wanted to get me out of there.”
Agusti explained that the nursing department lacks “capacity to test every student for influenza,” and instead has developed a new protocol to “expedite care” and treat symptoms.
“Since yesterday, due to [a] high volume of students with flu symptoms and lack of capacity to test every student for influenza, a protocol was developed to expedite care,” Agusti wrote on Feb. 24. “Following [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] guidelines, students that have a negative COVID antigen test and meet influenza criteria can be empirically treated with Tamiflu, medicine used for treatment of influenza without a test.”
Agusti added that students “with specific medical problems, chronic conditions or other social circumstances” may be tested, and that the department has focused on “prioritizing students with urgent needs.”
Randall said two of his roommates, both of whom also contracted the flu, ended up visiting Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center due to severe symptoms. While one roommate was helped by staff, another was “violently sick in their waiting room, showing physical signs of sickness and was still not being seen.”
“The doctor basically told him he was young and healthy and he would be fine, [but] he was still debilitatingly sick,” Randall said. “They ended up [treating him], but it was definitely a very roundabout, multiple hours-long process. That was just a little bit obnoxious when he's in peril in a waiting room.”
Lampert, on the other hand, said he never visited Dick’s House or DHMC, instead calling the nurses and sharing his symptoms. He said they diagnosed him by phone and said he did not “need to bother coming in.” Police said she skipped a visit to Dick’s House altogether, as she has “had flus before and knew that it was the flu.”
While on his call, Lambert recounted that the nurses shared “pretty standard instructions” to curb his illness, including fluids, pain killers, rest and fever reducers.
“Students who are otherwise healthy and not at higher risk for flu complications do not need to be treated with antiviral drugs and can improve with supportive care measures, fluids, rest and over-the-counter medications to treat symptoms,” Bracken wrote. “Students who are at risk for complications can benefit from treatment with antiviral medications and should contact the Dartmouth College Health Service.”
Randall said his bout with the flu has caused him to fall behind in his classes, but noted that his professors have been understanding of his sickness and have granted him extensions on assignments. Likewise, Police and Lampert said they were both able to either skip classes or attend on Zoom. Lampert even took an online midterm during his sickness.
While Bracken wrote that “students should self-isolate for 24 hours after being fever-free,” Lampert noted difficulties containing the spread when planning his meals.
“The meal setup for COVID was definitely a lot better at containing the virus, whereas for the flu, I’m still going to Foco or I’ll order takeout,” Lampert said.
Lampert added that fatigue made the trek to the Class of 1953 Commons challenging, and he often would find himself either eating or alone or with his roommate.
Agusti wrote that students who suspect they have the flu should “keep away from others as much as possible, ideally at least 6 [feet] apart [and] remain in a room separate from common areas in your residence hall/home.”
The surge in cases comes amid “documentation for [roughly] 2500 student flu shots.” Bracken wrote. According to Bracken, students still wanting to get their flu shot can go to the Mediquick station at ’53 Commons on Tuesday between noon to 1:30 pm or make an appointment at Dick’s House.