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Explainer: what is freshers’ flu and what can you do about it?

Research output: Contribution to specialist publicationArticle

Publication date6/10/2015
JournalThe Conversation
<mark>Original language</mark>English


Many countries face a mass migration every autumn. In the UK around 1.8 million young people leave their normal place of residence and move to a few hundred concentrated locations, where they often live and work at high density. Within a few weeks, it’s common to hear reports that a significant proportion of them are ill with an infectious respiratory disease.

These migrants are undergraduate students and the disease is known colloquially as “freshers’ flu”. But seasonal influenza (A and B), which emerges from south-east Asia every year, doesn’t normally arrive in the UK until December at the earliest. So freshers’ flu is unlikely to be flu at all – although there’s a small chance it could be the more obscure influenza C, for which there is no surveillance and therefore no information on seasonality.