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Coughs, colds and “freshers’ flu” survey in the University of Cambridge, 2007–2008

Research output: Contribution to Journal/MagazineJournal articlepeer-review

  • Ken T.D. Eames
  • Maria L. Tang
  • Edward M. Hill
  • Michael J. Tildesley
  • Jonathan M. Read
  • Matt J. Keeling
  • Julia R. Gog
Article number100659
<mark>Journal publication date</mark>31/03/2023
Number of pages15
Publication StatusPublished
Early online date23/12/22
<mark>Original language</mark>English


Universities provide many opportunities for the spread of infectious respiratory illnesses. Students are brought together into close proximity from all across the world and interact with one another in their accommodation, through lectures and small group teaching and in social settings. The COVID-19 global pandemic has highlighted the need for sufficient data to help determine which of these factors are important for infectious disease transmission in universities and hence control university morbidity as well as community spillover. We describe the data from a previously unpublished self-reported university survey of coughs, colds and influenza-like symptoms collected in Cambridge, UK, during winter 2007–2008. The online survey collected information on symptoms and socio-demographic, academic and lifestyle factors. There were 1076 responses, 97% from University of Cambridge students (5.7% of the total university student population), 3% from staff and <1% from other participants, reporting onset of symptoms between September 2007 and March 2008. Undergraduates are seen to report symptoms earlier in the term than postgraduates; differences in reported date of symptoms are also seen between subjects and accommodation types, although these descriptive results could be confounded by survey biases. Despite the historical and exploratory nature of the study, this is one of few recent detailed datasets of influenza-like infection in a university context and is especially valuable to share now to improve understanding of potential transmission dynamics in universities during the current COVID-19 pandemic.