Students all over campus have been experiencing symptoms of coughing, congestion and other cold-like symptoms over the last few weeks on campus— though Student Health Center officials aren't sure what the cause is.
The sickness, though likely a strain of the common cold, has been deemed the "frat flu" by LSU students on Twitter and TikTok, as it's allegedly concentrated among Greek Life.
Many students experiencing the symptoms have been testing negative for COVID-19, mono and the flu, according to Student Health Center Executive Director Julie Hupperich. The university has yet to report one confirmed case of the flu this semester.
There are just 36 active COVID-19 cases on campus as of Oct. 15, according to LSU’s COVID-19 dashboard, as around 80% of the student body is vaccinated.
Hupperich believes the illness going around is likely an unnamed virus working its way through the student body.
“Some students have claimed that it’s coming from the residence halls, we’ve heard others say it’s Greek organizations—honestly I think it’s just something we’re seeing in general among the student body,” Hupperich said.
Got the frat flu and miller plague. My own health is kicking my ass more than LSU is wtf.— Rachael Hovis (@hovis_rachael) September 27, 2021
The most notable mention of the sickness appeared on the TikTok account @lsuchicks, where a video of different allergy relievers was captioned with "#fratflu."
Biological sciences senior and Phi Mu member Madeline Mahtook has observed many girls in her sorority house sneezing and losing their voices.
Mahtook has noticed the illness going around for about two weeks, and says it's like sinus infections. She said a friend of hers tested negative for COVID-19 after developing symptoms and recovered within a few days of resting at home.
Mahtook agreed with the theory, saying that students get sick with the common cold and sinus infections every year when colder weather rolls around, a trend made worse during midterms week when students are stressed and staying up later.
While others in her sorority have felt ill, Mahtook says that many have been pushing off going to the doctor until their conditions worsen. Because classes are back in person, students have found that it’s harder to keep up in class when they’re sick, especially now that some don’t offer Zoom as an alternative.
“No one feels awful enough that they can’t go to class,” Mahtook said. “If they don’t feel like they’re about to die, then they’re going to class.”
Kappa Delta member and kinesiology senior Erica Lebouef has also seen students continuing to go to class despite being sick.
“Students are going about a normal day as they would. For a lot of people, it’s not anything too intense,” Lebouef said. “With midterms this week, it would be hard to take off a week of school.”
Lebeouf suffered from a sore throat last week, and her roommates and friends have been experiencing coughing and fatigue, despite testing negative for COVID-19 and the flu.
"You feel like if you miss one class, you fall really far behind," Lebeouf said. "Those couple of days that we would be out, it would just be even more stress on us to pick back up and get back into the swing of things."
Education senior Lauren Taylor is a member of Chi Omega. She described the cold-like symptoms that she’s seen on campus for the past two weeks as the “inevitable” time of year during midterms week where everyone is more susceptible to getting sick.
Like Mahtook and Leboeuf, Taylor has also seen students going to class despite their symptoms. While they are doing this to stay on top of their studies, Taylor believes the students are just making themselves feel worse.
“I think that people forget to take care of themselves, so their immune systems get worse,” Taylor said. “That’s just our body's response to stress, especially when people aren’t eating enough and not working out.”
Despite the lack of confirmed cases at the university, the CDC and other national experts are predicting a more active flu season for 2021. While LSU has not met its flu vaccination goals for this year, the vaccine is still being offered by the Student Health Center.
Hupperich said the center administered 1,168 vaccines last week, which is about a third of the amount of flu vaccines administered per week in 2019.
Hupperich believes that a large part of this reduction is due to vaccine fatigue attributed to students hearing about COVID vaccinations all throughout 2021. Hupperich said another cause could be because many students don’t see the point of getting a flu shot this year, as last year's flu season wasn’t as bad due to COVID-19 measures.
Communications disorders junior Jillian Primeaux encouraged other students to get vaccinated for the flu after getting her own shot.
“Vaccinations are good for the general population,” Primeaux said. “I like to go whenever LSU does it just because it’s free, which is nice, and they just have it really accessible."
Because vaccine rates this semester were so low, the Student Health Center is looking into offering flu shots at other sites on campus again.
Even though the “frat flu” doesn’t appear to be a major issue, Hupperich warns students that a legitimate flu outbreak is possible, and getting vaccinated is essential in preventing an outbreak among students.
“I’ve always gotten the flu shot, but especially right now, it’s super important to just take any precaution you can to stay as healthy as possible,” said Mick Day, a communication disorders graduate student.