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Freshers’ flu back with a vengeance

Many students returning to the University of Edinburgh over the last few weeks have been reporting flu-like symptoms such as coughs, colds and fatigue.

Although there have been 46 covid-19 cases reported amongst staff and students at the university since the start of the semester, many other students have tested negative for the virus, suggesting that a form of ‘freshers’ flu’ is currently spreading.

Speaking to the BBC, Dr Philipa Kaye – a GP based in London – has suggested that the cold and flu-like viruses currently circulating amongst much of the population is actually linked to the pandemic. 

“We’ve actually been seeing a rise in the number of coughs and colds and viral infections.”

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She explained that the main reason is because of the easing of coronavirus restrictions.

“We are mixing in a way that we haven’t been mixing over the past 18 months,” Dr Philippa told the BBC. 

Speaking about the prevalence of cold and flu viruses amongst the university student body at the moment, Ollie, a third year Politics student at the University of Edinburgh, said: 

“It seems everyone has the same cold – a weird combination of normal flu symptoms, tiredness and some strange sinus problems.” 

Eliška, a third year Sociology student, has also experienced similar symptoms. 

“My whole flat has had it; we were passing it on to one another and I’m the last one,” she explained.

“At this point I just really want it to go away because I can’t physically do anything which is really annoying, like socialise, or do uni work properly.

“I have two in-person classes in a week and I’m going to miss them which is sad because I was looking forward to having at least some in person teaching,” she continues. 

Freshers’ events, the reopening of nightclubs and a return to in-person teaching have meant students have been mingling in large groups, making a change from the university life of the previous semester. 

“It seems strange going about our business as normal even when ill – we’ve got so used to having to isolate for covid when we’re feeling under the weather,” says Ollie.

For other students, however, these symptoms have turned out to be more than just a common cold.

Maja, a second year English Literature student, had been back in Edinburgh for just two weeks when she tested positive for covid.

“The symptoms were not what I expected of covid so I thought I just had a cold.

“My lateral flow test was negative, but I got a PCR and it turned out to be positive”.

For some returning students, such as third year Geography and Politics student, Eden, the symptoms going round have been a source of worry.

“I’m in a constant state of anxiety over how every time I cough, I think it’s covid. It feels as if my immune system is non-existent.”

She says although she “didn’t catch covid”, she “caught a cold”, an experience familiar to many students at the moment.

Between 21 September 2021 and 27 September 2021, 1,534 of people in the City of Edinburgh had a confirmed positive test result, with 8.8 per cent of reported tests being positive. 

This shows a decrease of 24.2 per cent compared to the previous seven days. 

Government and healthcare websites continue to state the three main symptoms of coronavirus as a new and continuous cough, a fever and a change in smell or taste. These are the three symptoms that have been listed since the beginning of the pandemic.

However, ZOE, the world’s largest ongoing study into the virus, has shown changes to covid symptoms, particularly in those who have had both doses of the vaccine. 

These include sore throats, runny noses, headaches and sneezing, and can therefore appear similar to a regular cold.

PCR tests continue to be available for those showing symptoms of covid or for those who have had a close contact test positive.

Image: Flickr