Across the country, “flu season” took on special meaning this winter. The media described the spread of the H3N2 virus as an “epidemic,” and the flu has wreaked havoc on Rhode Island schools and workplaces since autumn.
But students at Brown University have some consolation: “Flu Buddies,” a special program designed by Campus Life and Student Services to help undergrads get better. When students fall ill, they can register on the FluWeb portal, report their missed class time, and request provisions.
“The service is intended to reduce the need for students to leave their rooms while contagious,” says Jessie Curran, a registered dietitian at Brown.
Once students have registered, they can order special “FluKits,” a package full of water, granola bars, and microwaveable soups, among other helpful items. If they’re healthy enough to walk, they can pick up their FluKits at the dining hall’s cash registers. Bedridden students can ask a trusted friend, or “FluBuddy,” to pick up the kit on their behalf. The service is free for enrolled students.
Occasionally, students are both immobile and unable to conscript a FluBuddy. In that event, Dining Services sends a courier to hand-deliver the package. But even this can be tricky.
“We’ve had deliveries to students sick enough that they are quarantined by the university,” says Curran. “In that case, our drivers must get the room numbers to these students, knock on the doors, and leave the food package outside their room so no contact is made.”
Despite the epidemiological panic, Brown hasn’t endured the wave of plague that other colleges have reported.
“We have had a similar participation rate as last year,” says Curran. “It is completely predictable to us when these requests start to roll in. In fact, our assistant chef, who does a lot of assembling of kits, sent an email the day before our first request came in, saying, ‘It’s that time of year. I’ve stocked the chef’s closet with assembled flu kits.’”
Curran expects orders to taper off this month.