Common viruses and infections can affect anyone at any time. While more prevalent in the fall and winter months, it’s important to know the signs and symptoms of these diseases so you can take preventive measures and seek treatment when needed.


According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, influenza (flu) is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses that infect the nose, throat and lungs. While people 65 years and older, young children and people with certain health conditions are at higher risk for complications with the viruses, anyone can become infected. Influenza A and B viruses routinely spread in people and are responsible for seasonal flu epidemics each year.

Influenza viruses spread mainly through droplets when people infected cough, sneeze or talk. Individuals may also become infected by touching a surface that has the virus on it and then touching their mouth, nose or eyes.

Symptoms of influenza usually come on suddenly and can include:

  • Fever/feeling feverish or chills
  • Cough
  • Sore throat
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Fatigue (tiredness)
  • Some people may have vomiting and diarrhea, though this is more common in children 

Influenza and COVID-19 can present similar symptoms. To know the difference, the CDC has outlined what to look for.

The CDC recommends the best way to prevent influenza is to get vaccinated each year. This season’s flu shot will be available through Student Health starting Monday, September 18.

Daily precautions such as avoiding close contact with people who are sick, covering coughs and sneezes, washing hands with soap and water and avoiding touching your eyes, nose and mouth should also be taken.

Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV)

The CDC defines RSV as a common respiratory virus that usually causes mild, cold-like symptoms. RSV spreads through droplets, direct contact with an infected individual and touching surfaces that has the virus on it. While most people recover in one to two weeks, RSV can be serious.

People infected with RSV usually show symptoms within four to six days after becoming infected. Symptoms usually appear in stages and may include:

  • Runny nose
  • Decrease in appetite
  • Coughing
  • Sneezing
  • Fever
  • Wheezing

To prevent RSV, the CDC recommends that individuals with cold-like symptoms should cover their coughs and sneezes, wash hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, avoid close contact with others and clean frequently touched surfaces. 

Strep Throat

According to the CDC, strep throat is an infection in the throat and tonsils caused by bacteria called group A Streptococcus. Group A strep bacteria is very contagious and people generally spread the bacteria to others through respiratory droplets and direct content.

After exposure to group A strep bacteria, it usually takes two to five days for someone to become ill with strep throat. Symptoms can include:

  • Fever
  • Pain when swallowing
  • Sore throat that can start very quickly and may look red
  • Red and swollen tonsils
  • White patches or streaks of pus on the tonsils
  • Tiny, red spots on the roof of the mouth, called petechiae
  • Swollen lymph nodes in the front of the neck.

Images showing signs of strep throat are available on the CDC website. It’s important to note that symptoms do not include cough or runny nose which may suggest a virus rather than infection.

Individuals with symptoms can receive a rapid strep test or throat culture from Student Health or a healthcare provider to test for strep throat and begin treatment which usually includes antibiotics.

The CDC recommends practicing good hygiene to prevent strep throat such as washing your hands often, covering your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze and putting used tissues in the waste basket.


Information and resources on influenza, RSV and strep throat are widely available online. Individuals are encouraged to contact Student Health or their healthcare provider for testing and treatment recommendations.