Winter Illness Makes its Presence Known on Campus

Casey Crough
Staff Reporter

Have you been feeling ill lately? Perhaps you have a runny nose, a sore throat, or maybe a fever; it seems like it is routine that students become ill when returning to college campuses, and it’s not from all of the schoolwork.

Since students live and socialize in such a close environment, it’s easy for germs to travel and for others to get sick.

In these first weeks back on the Hill, the Wellness Center has seen about 300 students. Joan Lusby, a certified physicians assistant at the Wellness Center, has not seen anything that has surprised her yet this year.

“Mostly students have come in with a cold, allergy symptoms, or skin infections,” said Lusby. Probably the most serious case are the skin infections. Lusby conducted a two-year study when skin infections began to show up on campus. “Originally skin infections such as MRSA were isolated only in hospitals, but now the infection is spreading into the community,” said Lusby.

After her study, Lusby was the one to get soap into the athletic department, and provided the materials in the gym to wipe off the equipment. The skin infections are in no way an epidemic, but something to still be cautious of.
Red bumps that appear to be a bug bite could be a sign of a skin infection. Oftentimes the bumps may begin to pus or spread.

To decrease your risk of getting an infection, avoid close contact with athletic equipment. Yet, this raises a problem for athletes who practice everyday or students who use the gym on regular basis.
Lusby offers the advice to be highly aware of your personal hygiene and to take action as soon as possible if you think you are getting an infection. She also suggests avoiding skin-to-skin contact.

Another illness around campus is the common cold, yet sometimes it can be mistaken for allergies. Usually with a cold there are aches and pains, coughing, sore throat, and a runny nose. Students can go to the Wellness Center to the Self Care Cold Clinic. This Clinic lets students treat their own symptoms, and can save time since they do not have to make an appointment.

The biggest problem with the student community is the lack of personal responsibility. Lusby claimed, “Students should own their own hand soap and take better care of themselves when regarding personal hygiene.” Although it may seem inconvenient, owning your own hand soap helps to decrease the spreading of germs.

For some students it may be hard to take responsibility of their own, but without that motivation, germs will continue to spread and students will continue to get sick.

It seems as though the school should provide soap for the dorms; if it is college property, it should not have to be the student’s responsibility. Yet, at the same time it is appalling how students treat this campus.

“Kids would never leave their homes as dirty as they do here,” said Lusby. She feels that the school should not have to provide soap; rather it should be the students’ own personal responsibility to maintain their hygiene.

This past February there was a flu epidemic on campus. Several students were sent home in hopes of containing the infection. Each year 36,000 people die from the flu, according to the National Women’s Health Resource Center, and it is no joke.

Lusby said, “kids were upset to be isolated, but I knew if it got out of control, the campus would have been potentially shut down.” The best way to protect yourself is by maintaining your immune system. The Wellness Center will also be offering the flu shot again this year, and it should not be more than twenty dollars. The shot is not a 100 percent guarantee of being flu free, but it is a defense against potentially getting the illness.

No cases of the flu have been reported so far, but the flu only comes once a year, and will probably come again according to Lusby.
When examining other campuses, Lusby said the illnesses tend to be the same on the East Coast: the common cold, the flu, STDS, UTI’s, mono, and skin infections.

Students need to be more contentious when spreading germs. Even little things such as washing their hands frequently or remembering the cover their mouths when they cough could really help the campus to stay healthy.

For more information or advice, call the Wellness Center at ext. 2243.