Illness on campus is tied to unhygienic conditions

How many people have gotten sick on campus lately?

“Like, everyone I know basically (has gotten sick), including me,” said first-year Nick Reynolds.

“At the beginning of this semester, everyone in my suite was sick,” said sophomore Alex Barbour.

I am sure you have seen somebody — a friend, a passerby, a roommate — suffering at the hands of a bacterial or viral foe during the course of this semester.

While our microbial adversaries could be the root of the problem, I disagree. I think we are.

If you look back on every untidy dorm and apartment you have been in in the past couple of months, it becomes apparent that college students essentially live in Petri dishes. A few people agree.

“I think communal living aids the spread of disease,” said sophomore Julia Opaleski.

“(Dorms are a) harbored of disease, yes,” said Reynolds.

“(I got sick) probably living in a dorm and sharing a bathroom,” said Barbour.

The general consensus in the medical community is that disease and illness are usually more prevalent during winter months because everyone packs indoors and are simply in closer contact with sick people.

“I don’t think (college students) are any more prone to sickness than a family,” said Administrative Assistant Susan Smith, who works in the Milner Student Health and Counseling Center. “We all come in contact with germs.”

There certainly is a case to be made that living conditions at Guilford are no different than the typical household. But trends indicate that the rates of infection have peaked and are on the downslope.

“Eagle (Physicians) reported they did see a lot of flu and stomach type viruses January into February,” Smith said. “What helped a lot of students was January Term. People weren’t on campus during the busiest part of the flu season.”

As recently as the week of March 22, the Center for Disease Control reported North Carolina has seen minimal influenza activity. The activity that did exist was localized.

With all indication that the student body has escaped the brunt of the local and regional spread of disease and the height of the flu season, why are people still falling ill?

Perhaps the cause is the condition we live in and tolerate.

“I have friends who sneeze and don’t cover their mouths,” said sophomore Timmy Barrows. “If one person is sick, everyone gets sick.”

I cannot tell you how many times I have witnessed someone not wash their hands in the restroom. There are some nasty living spaces and kitchens tucked away on campus.

Students just need to clean up their act.

“A lot of it is common sense — taking care of yourself,” said Smith.

One might claim promoting wellness can be viewed as a zero-sum game. In the infectious arms race, whatever measures used to avoid succumbing to disease can be counteracted.

“There really is no way to stop getting sick,” said Reynolds.

While there is no surefire way to prevent coming down with a medical malady, practicing healthy habits can greatly decrease your chances.