Influenza cases drop due to pandemic precautions

Masking and social distancing have slowed the spread of more illnesses than just COVID-19. Students in the School of Music say that common illnesses that have spread quickly in the past have not since the implementation of these guidelines. Courtesy photo

By Emily Cousins | Staff Writer

Before the pandemic, common viruses usually spread quickly at colleges. Now that masks and social distancing are required on campus because of COVID-19, other viruses aren’t spreading as easily either.

Sharon Stern, Medical Director of Baylor, said viruses spread in student groups that spend much time together.

“​Many viruses spread easily with close contact and communal living, including influenza and various cold viruses,” Stern said. “Influenza has typically been highest at two different times in spring semesters: during and immediately after sorority recruitment week, and during Sing rehearsals and performances.”

Stern said because of mask wearing, social distancing and hand washing, influenza rates were lower this year.

“Most years we see between 50-100 influenza-like illnesses each week,” Stern said. “This year we have seen 1-2 per week.”

Stern said even though the influenza numbers have been down, other viruses are still spreading.

“We have still seen some occasional common cold viruses,” Stern said. “We have seen much more strep throat than usual. We are trying to determine the cause of that increase.”

Denton senior Kate Bishop, vocal performance major, said during a normal year, the School of Music usually gets sick together.

“Strep is huge within the music school usually around fall, winter time,” Bishop said. “We get lots of people dropping like flies, just because we spend so much time together, and we sing together and practice together.”

This year, Bishop said she hasn’t heard about as many people getting sick at once.

Even after the pandemic, Stern said people who are feeling ill should still wear masks as things adjust back to normal.

“I would suggest people continue wearing masks if they are in large groups or around anyone outside of their home group, and if they are feeling ill,” Stern said. “It is also a good idea to wear a mask if you are in a clinic or hospital. Other countries have continued mask-wearing after other epidemic outbreaks, and it seems to have helped contain outbreaks of viruses like the coronavirus that causes COVID-19.”