Campus / News / February 2, 2011

Knox winter plague strikes campus

Fevers, sore throats and coughs have not been in short supply at Knox in the last few weeks.

According to Dan Larson, Director of Counseling Services, at least 30 students come into the Heath Center on most days during winter term.

“We’re seeing more than we’ve seen in the previous years,” Larson said. “We don’t know why.”

“Everyone in my suite has been sick, except for one or two people,” first-year Monica Stempniewicz said.

Although the volume is higher, this year is following the normal pattern of flu season; the first week is slow, picking up during the second and third weeks and the forth week of the term, around midterms, “things skyrocket,” Larson said.

Anywhere people live close together and share a bathroom is a likely place for colds and the flu to multiply quickly, but according to Larson, Knox is especially prone to illness spreading.

“[Knox’s suites are] a wonderful thing, but it can also become a way that things might spread quicker,” he said.

Knox’s small campus also contributes to the spread of disease, Larson said. “You’re around the same people more.”

Some students speculate that a delay in diagnosing the flu may contribute to its rapid spread.

“It took a couple of days to go to Health Services because Health Services isn’t open over the weekend,” first-year Emma Dryjanski said.

First-year Jordan Shaffer’s first flu test was a false negative; two days later she returned to Health Services and tested positive.

There are various sore throats, colds and stomach bugs going around, but only about 40-45 students have been diagnosed with the flu so far this year, Larson said.

“We try to contain it as much as we can,” Larson said. They generally excuse students with the flu from classes for three days, or until they come back and get a “clean bill of health.”

A letter given to students diagnosed with the flu stipulates that students should go home if possible; otherwise, they are required to isolate themselves in their room until they have been free of fever for 24 hours.

Students refer to this as “quarantine.” Dryjanski said, “I was quarantined. No one could talk to me. I slept for three days straight.”

“I think the idea [of quarantine] itself is good…it’s flawed in the sense that many people are not willing to go to Health Services and they’re the ones contaminating the rest of Knox,” first-year Yael Cody said.

Larson recommends that students who might have the flu come in sooner rather than later; that way there are “more options available to you,” he said.

Larson encourages students to prevent themselves from getting sick by resting, drinking fluids, using hand sanitizer and keeping their hands away from their face.

Stress management, healthy diet and taking vitamins will also help students stay healthy.

“Those are the keys,” Larson said.

Gretchen Walljasper

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