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Guidance for Respiratory Illnesses

Alongside the changes made by the CDC in March 2024 related to COVID-19, Wellness has also updated its guidance. The information below provides practical tips for keeping yourself and your fellow Penn community members healthy and well for most respiratory illnesses, especially COVID-19, influenza, and RSV. Please note: this guidance does not apply to those working or learning in healthcare settings. Those students/staff should consult with their instructor or manager.

Please visit our communicable disease page for additional virus-specific information. If you are feeling sick and need medical care, you can schedule an appointment by calling 215-746-WELL (9355) and choose option #1 to be connected to the medical care team.

The best way to stay healthy and well is through preventive actions:

  • Vaccination: It's highly recommended that everyone receive an updated COVID-19 and influenza vaccine annually. The RSV vaccine is recommended for all Penn Community members who meet certain criteria (e.g. children, pregnant women, and those 60 and older). Vaccination provides protection for you, your family and your friends. Vaccination remains the best protection against severe disease, hospitalization, and death. Vaccines are available through local pharmacies and primary care providers. 

    Penn has resumed its pre-pandemic immunization requirements for the 2023-2024 academic year. More information on general immunization requirements can be found on the Immunization and Insurance Requirements page

    The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that everyone age 6 months and older get a flu vaccine and an updated COVID-19 vaccine to help protect against serious illness. The CDC also states that the COVID-19 vaccine can be co-administered with the flu vaccine.
  • Hand hygiene: Scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and warm water. Need a timer? Hum the “Happy Birthday” song from beginning to end twice. Remember to lather the backs of your hands, between your fingers, and under your nails. If soap and water are not readily available, you can use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.

Guidance when you're sick:

  • Stay home when feeling unwell: if you're sick, you should stay home for at least 24 hours after a fever (temperature of 100 degrees Fahrenheit or 37.8 degrees Celsius or higher) is gone and symptoms have improved. Temperature should be measured without the use of fever-reducing medicines (medicines that contains ibuprofen or acetaminophen). Then, over the next five days, use increased precautions around others like distancing, masking, and gathering in open air spaces.
  • Test for flu, COVID-19, and RSV: PCR and rapid testing for COVID-19, influenza, and RSV may be available locally through Urgent Cares, Philadelphia Department of Public Health, and primary care providers for the entire Penn community. At-home COVID-19 antigen tests are available for purchase at pharmacies such as CVS and RiteAid, which may also provide on-site PCR testing. At-home COVID-19 tests are available for free to students as medically indicated at the Student Health and Counseling medical care office (3535 Market Street, First Floor), and students do not need an appointment to pick up an at-home test. 
  • Wear a mask: if you aren't feeling well, wear a mask if you must leave your home. You may also be asked to wear a mask in healthcare settings if you have symptoms of a respiratory illness.
  • Seek support: Be sure to connect with our medical care team or your primary care provider for timely treatment options that help reduce severity of symptoms like Paxlovid for COVID-19 and other antivirals for flu.

For more information:
Wellness at Penn: Communicable Diseases

Last updated: March 2024