Storms make for a tough cold and flu season for CBU students

Riverside, Calif. (March 28, 2024) – Throughout Southern California, the winter season of 2023-24 has been a wet one. Since January, weather stations in Riverside have registered 8.68 inches of rain[1]. This is typically the amount of rain the city sees over a 12-month period. The result of this rain is not just flooded streets and wet shoes. This type of long-term rain impacts climate, vegetation and people for months to come.

Many California Baptist University students have reported higher incidence of illness this winter, with cases of the flu, RSV and Coronavirus up since returning from winter break, according to the office of Student Care. People are also experiencing more than one respiratory virus at a time and because the storms keep coming, the illnesses are lingering.

“The rain doesn’t make people sick, but one’s exposure to cold, wet weather can,” said Dr. Mary Stahovich, assistant professor of physician assistant studies. “If people don’t dress accordingly – bundle up for cold weather, use an umbrella – they can get and stay wet. This can result in hypothermia very quickly.”

Hypothermia is a condition where the body temperature drops below 95 degrees. It can occur even when outside temperatures are above 40 degrees if someone gets chilled and remains wet, like in a rainstorm. Signs and symptoms of hypothermia include shivering, exhaustion, drowsiness and confusion.[2]

At the same time, people find themselves indoors more to avoid the cold, wet weather. They may stay indoors for longer periods of time and be in a home or classroom full of other people. People exercise less and are overall less active, both of which can lead to illness during winter months.

Along with illness itself, Southern California seems to be stuck in a never ending rainy season. The back-to-back storms have created an environment that is conducive to fungus and spores thriving in the environment, which leads to further illness.

“When moisture hits, spores germinate. If they find nutrients in the environment, then billions of spores are produced in a very short period,” said Dr. Dennis K. Bideshi, professor of biology. “These fungal spores can cause disease in humans to happen rapidly.”

Initially, rain washes out pollen. If the rain subsides and the sun comes out, plants start to bloom, resulting in a higher pollen count. The increased moisture also contributes to an upsurge in the presence of mosquitoes, which carry several parasitic diseases.

“Viruses mutate rapidly,” said Bideshi. “Microorganisms and viruses adapt to us and we to them. They become more prolific.”

What can students do to get and stay healthy as we look ahead and see a few more storms? Stahovich recommends general preventive measures, such as hydrating, sleeping and considering vaccines. Additionally, find alternative ways to get movement in so you don’t go an entire season without exercising.

“Wash your hands, self-monitor, stay home if you are feeling ill and go to the doctor,” said Stahovich. “Even now, it’s not too late to get a flu shot. This can go a long way to protecting yourself and others.” 

[1] https://ceriverside.ucanr.edu/About_CE_Riverside/weather_667/?weather=station&station=44

[2] https://www.cdc.gov/disasters/winter/staysafe/hypothermia.html

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