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Your Winter Guide for Telling Past Hookups That You Have the Flu


Photo by Tina Franklin / CC BY 2.0

Flu season is upon us, and if you’re one of the unlucky many to be stricken with the virus, chances are there’s only one concern on your mind: how will you tell all of your past partners that you have the flu? Scientists estimate that the incubation period for the virus is 1-4 days, but we recommend going back until at least that werewolf that you brought home on Halloween to be safe. It’s hazardous to the health of the entire school if there are people walking around campus unaware that they’re at risk for the flu.

1. Assemble your list

It’s imperative to track down each and every one of these girls, boys, or otherwise identified. We recommend keeping a running list of names and dates for all future infections or illnesses. A good Excel spreadsheet never goes to waste. If you haven’t been regularly updating your list, try checking a day planner or diary. You may have to sift for the information, but it will be there.

2. Craft a text

There are plenty of websites with advice for how to text past partners about a myriad of diseases. Although there are comparatively fewer resources for people with the flu than those with herpes or other STDs, the results are generalizable. It’s important not to drop the f-bomb and scare them, so try a vaguely threatening warning to go to SHS as soon as possible. That way they won’t worry about having the flu.

3. Send the text

If you are for some reason unable or unwilling to contact your partners directly, consider one of the multiple Anonymous STD Test Notification services online. These services allow you to provide the phone numbers or emails of former lovers, and the website will contact them anonymously. The newly-formed Students Against Confrontation (SAC, for short) have dedicated themselves to lobbying SHS to set up a program that’s exactly the same, except only for Penn students. However, until more exclusive options exist, these websites are an excellent way to avoid any kind of direct engagement.

4. Deal with the consequences

It’s risky to attach a name (be it your name, “cat costume,” or the leaf emoji) to such a vulnerable admission, but people will respect your ability to confront someone directly over iMessage. You risk being labeled forever as “that person who had the flu,” but is that worse than allowing someone to get sick in February without knowing it could be the flu? You has to make that decision yourself.

If we as a campus take this advice to heart, we could decrease uninformed transmission of the virus by up to 20 percent. This flu season, take some time away from sleeping and vomiting to stare at your phone and think about everyone you’ve ever hooked up with. While you’re at it, stalk them on Instagram and throw them a like for a post from 2012. Maybe next year you’ll have more vitamin C and fewer bad decisions.