The community health
The community healthteam leverages evidence-based strategies to reduce the impact of illness on student success by facilitating layered prevention behaviors, understanding campus disease patterns, and advancing community resilience to public health emergencies.
Over-the-Counter COVID-19 Testing
The Student Health Center has a limited number of at-home COVID tests that you can obtain at no charge. In many cases, people who test positive for COVID-19 may be able to recover at home on their own. Please visit our COVID-19 Resources page to determine if at-home testing is a good option for you.
Health & Illness Support
Staying home while you are ill is an important way to prevent the spread of illness in the community. Students seeking guidance on self-isolation, instructor notifications, and other support related to illness or injury-related absences can complete the Health & Illness Support Form by following the link below. A note from a healthcare provider is not required.
Widespread vaccination significantly reduces your risk from infectious diseases and the risk of spread in the community and households. Most required and recommended vaccines, including COVID-19, are available at the Student Health Center Pharmacy
Health Surveillance & Illnesses of Concern
The community health team monitors disease patterns on campus to provide campus with the best guidance possible and better understand how illness spreads in our community. Click on the dropdown menu below for more information about some of the illnesses of concern on a college campus.
Infectious mononucleosis, or mono, is a contagious disease that is common among young adults, especially college students. Mono is characterized by extreme fatigue, fever, sore throat, head and body aches, swollen lymph nodes, and rash. A swollen liver or spleen are serious, but less common symptoms.
Mono is usually but not always caused by Epstein-Barr Virus and is typically transmitted through bodily fluids, especially saliva. You can protect yourself by not kissing or sharing drinks, food, or personal items that come in contact with saliva (like chap stick or toothbrushes) with someone who has infectious mononucleosis.
If you are infected with mono, you can help relieve symptoms by resting, drinking plenty of fluids, and over-the-counter medications. It is also important to avoid contact sports. Your healthcare provider will advise you on other treatment options and how long you should stay home to recover and prevent transmission to others.
Influenza is a contagious respiratory illness characterized by fever, muscle or body aches, fatigue, headache, cough, and other respiratory symptoms. The symptoms are similar to those of COVID-19 or the common cold, but the treatment is very different. Most people have a mild illness and are able to recover at home, but flu can be serious in some and is responsible for seasonal epidemics. Students with symptoms of the flu should contact the SHC Triage Nurse Line at (865) 974-5080 to determine if an appointment is needed.
Annual vaccination is the best way to protect yourself and your community from influenza. Flu vaccines are rigorously tested and are repeatedly found to be safe and effective. Flu vaccines can prevent infection, lessen symptoms and speed recovery if you are infected, and reduce community spread. Flu vaccines are usually available starting in mid-September at the Student Health Center Pharmacy.
MPX is a rare disease caused by infection with the monkeypox virus. In 2022, the World Health Organization and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention began tracking a global outbreak of MPX. Generally, person to person transmission occurs through close, skin to skin contact or through touching items (like clothing, bed linens, and towels) that previously touched the infectious rash.
Your risk from MPX is low. MPX does not spread easily between people and is not as contagious as other diseases that have caused public health emergencies, like COVID-19. Respiratory transmission is possible but requires prolonged face-to-face or intimate contact. Some groups may be at elevated risk for exposure to MPX, but anyone in close contact with a person with MPX can get it and should take steps to protect themselves. People who do not have MPX symptoms cannot spread the virus to others.
Symptoms of MPX include skin rash, fever, chills, headache, muscle and back ache, exhaustion, and swollen lymph nodes. Symptoms usually begin within three weeks of infection and last for 2-4 weeks. In almost all cases, symptoms go away on their own. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, you should stay home from class and schedule an appointment with a healthcare provider.
If you are diagnosed with MPX, avoid being intimate with anyone and take a break from events involving close skin-to-skin contact until your rash is fully healed and fresh skin has formed. If you are exposed to MPX, vaccines are available through the Knox County Health Department.
Testing is available at the Student Health Center and through Knox County Health Department. Students can contact the Student Health Triage Nurse at (865) 974-5080. Anyone can contact KCHD at (865) 215-5000 for questions about testing and vaccines.
Staying up-to-date with vaccines and boosters is the best way to prevent serious COVID-19 illness.
Most of the time, the symptoms of COVID-19 are mild and can be managed effectively at home with over-the-counter medicine, and positive results on at home antigen tests are very reliable. To reduce the likelihood of virus transmission and maximize the availability of healthcare resources for others, you do not need a Student Health Center appointment to confirm a COVID test result performed at home or elsewhere. If your current symptoms are worsening or if worrisome new signs or symptoms develop, follow up with a healthcare provider may be advised. Students with worsening or worrisome symptoms should contact the SHC Triage Nurse Line at (865) 974-5080 to determine if an appointment is needed.
While the ways in which we live with COVID-19 are changing, the university continues to take its responsibility to respond to outbreaks and give students the tools to protect themselves seriously. Students with a recent positive COVID test, whether performed at home, through an off-campus healthcare resource, or at the SHC, should complete the online Health & Illness Support form available above. A SHC Community Health & Resilience team member will then contact you with additional information and answer any questions regarding their illness and isolation measures.
Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs or STDs) are infections that are passed from one person to another during sexual contact. Some STIs such as herpes and HPV are spread by skin-to-skin contact. There are a number of STIs, but the symptoms may include unusual discharge, rash, new lumps or growth, itching, or blisters, sores or warts in any region where you have had sexual or close skin-to-skin contact.
If you are experiencing symptom of an STI or are informed by a sexual partner that they are experiencing symptoms of an STI, you should seek testing and treatment. Students can call the Student Health Center Triage Nurse Line at (865) 974-5080 to schedule testing. Confidential, sliding scale testing is also available at the Knox County Health Department.
The CDC estimates that nearly one in five adults have an STI on any given day, and adolescents and young adults account for almost half of all new STIs. Sexually active adults should be tested for STIs at least once a year, even if they do not have symptoms. In some cases, STIs are curable, but in all cases early treatment of STIs can greatly reduce your risk of more serious disease.
If you choose to be sexually active, you can reduce your risk of STIs by using barrier methods consistently and correctly. Free safer sex supplies are available at the Student Health Center and the Center for Health Education & Wellness (CHEW). CHEW also provides evidence-based information about their correct use on their website.
Shigella bacteria cause an infection called shigellosis. Shigella cause an estimated 450,000 infections in the United States each year and an estimated $93 million in direct medical costs. Shigella spread easily; it takes just a small number of bacteria to make someone ill. People with a Shigella infection can spread the infection to others for several weeks after their diarrhea ends.
You can get infected by swallowing Shigella. Some ways Shigella can get into your mouth are:
- Getting Shigella on your hands and touching your mouth.
- Shigella can get on your hands by:
- Touching surfaces, such as toys, bathroom fixtures, changing tables, and diaper pails, contaminated with Shigella bacteria from someone with an infection.
- Changing the diaper of a child with a Shigella infection.
- Taking care of a person with an infection, including cleaning up after the person uses the toilet.
- Swallowing water you swim or play in, such as lake water or improperly treated swimming pool water.
- Swallowing contaminated drinking water, such as water from a well that’s been contaminated with sewage or flood water.
- Eating food prepared by someone with a Shigella infection.
- Exposure to poop during sexual contact with someone with a Shigella infection or who has recently recovered from a Shigella infection.
- Shigella can get on your hands by:
Most people with Shigella infection (shigellosis) experience:
- Diarrhea that can be bloody or prolonged (lasting more than 3 days)
- Stomach pain
- Feeling the need to pass stool (poop) even when the bowels are empty.
Symptoms usually start 1–2 days after infection and last 7 days. In some cases, bowel habits (frequency and consistency of stool) do not return to normal for several months.
Many kinds of germs can cause diarrhea. Knowing which germ is causing an illness is important to help guide appropriate treatment. Healthcare providers can order laboratory tests to identify Shigella germs in the stool of an infected person.
Most people who have shigellosis usually get better without antibiotic treatment in 5 to 7 days. People with mild shigellosis may need only fluids and rest. Bismuth subsalicylate (for example, Pepto-Bismol) may be helpful, but people sick with shigellosis should not use medications that cause the gut to slow down and interfere with the way the body digests food, such as loperamide (for example, Imodium) or diphenoxylate with atropine (for example, Lomotil).
Healthcare providers may prescribe antibiotics for people with severe cases of shigellosis to help them get better faster. However, some antibiotics are not effective against certain types of Shigella. Healthcare providers can order laboratory tests to determine which antibiotics are likely to work. Tell your healthcare provider if you do not get better within a couple of days after starting antibiotics. They can do more tests to learn whether your type of Shigella bacteria can be treated effectively with the antibiotic you are taking. If not, your doctor may prescribe another type of antibiotic.
You can reduce your chance of getting sick from Shigella by taking these steps:
- Carefully washing your hands with soap and water during key times:
- Before preparing food and eating.
- After changing a diaper or helping to clean another person who has defecated (pooped).
- If you care for a child in diapers who has shigellosis, promptly throw away the soiled diapers in a covered, lined garbage can.
- Wash your hands and the child’s hands carefully with soap and water right after changing the diapers.
- Clean up any leaks or spills of diaper contents immediately.
- Avoid swallowing water from ponds, lakes, or untreated swimming pools.
- When traveling internationally, stick to safe eating and drinking habits, and wash hands often with soap and water.
- Avoid having sex (vaginal, anal, and oral) for 2 weeks after your partner recovers from diarrhea.
- Because Shigella germs may be in stool for several weeks, follow safe sexual practices, or ideally avoid having sex, for several weeks after your partner has recovered.
If you have been diagnosed with a Shigella infection, you can avoid giving it to other people if you:
- Wash your hands carefully and frequently with soap and water, especially after using the bathroom.
- Do not prepare food for others while you are sick.
- After you get better, wash your hands carefully with soap and water before preparing food for others.
- Stay home from childcare, school and food service facilities while sick. Your local health department may have a policy on when to return to childcare or school. Refer to your local health department website for more information.
- Avoid swimming until you have fully recovered.
- Wait to have sex (vaginal, anal, and oral) for 2 weeks after you no longer have diarrhea. Because Shigella germs may be in stool for several weeks, follow safe sexual practices, or ideally avoid having sex, for several weeks after you have recovered.
Strep throat is a bacterial infection in the throat and tonsils caused by streptococcus bacteria. Strep throat is characterized by a sore throat (particularly one that starts quickly), pain when swallowing, fever, red and swollen tonsils, frequently with white spots or streaks, small red spots on the roof of the mouth, and swollen lymph nodes. Strep throat symptoms generally do not include cough, runny nose, hoarseness, or pink eye.
The symptoms of strep throat are painful but not generally serious. If you are concerned that you may have strep throat, however, you should seek treatment to relieve symptoms and prevent more serious disease. Antibiotics are very effective at relieving symptoms and reducing spread to others. Students can call the Student Health Center Triage Nurse Line for evaluation at (865) 974-5080.
Strep throat is transmitted by respiratory droplets, which means that you may contract strep throat through close contact with an infected individual, touching something contaminated with respiratory droplets and then touching your mouth or nose, or drinking or eating with the same utensils as someone who has strep throat.
The best way to prevent strep throat is through consistent hand and respiratory hygiene. Cover your mouth or nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze, or sneeze into your upper sleeve or elbow if you can’t find a tissue. Wash and sanitize your hands often, particularly after you cough or sneeze.
If you have strep throat, you should stay home from class or work until you no longer have a fever AND have taken antibiotics for at least 12 hours, or as long as your healthcare provider advises. If you live in a dorm or in close quarters with others, you should maintain physical distance as much as you are able and wipe down shared surfaces regularly with a sanitizing wipe.