An overwhelming number of students visited the rebecca M. Sykes Wellness Center over the past few weeks due to the increasing volume of illnesses: seasonal influenza, viral gastroenteritis, and the common cold. Symptoms of seasonal influenza, also known as the flu, in clude fever, cough, and fatigue which can make it highly contagious. Gastroenteritis has more severe symptoms such as nausea, diarrhea, fatigue, and fever.
“We’ve had a very small handful of positive flu. There’s a difference between the flu, which is what [students and faculty] got [vaccines] for, and what we saw a large majority of here on campus, which was gastroenteritis. It is a viral gastral bug that we got inundated with about three weeks ago,” said Karina early, a registered nurse at the Wellness Center.
In addition to gastroenteritis and the flu, there have also been many cases of a nondescript bug. According to members of the Wellness Center team, the bug acts like a viral illness and its symptoms are similar to those of the common cold, such as a fever and a runny nose. A pattern regarding spikes in illnesses around campus has been defined, with the peaks being around the middle of January continuing to May.
Nurses at the Wellness Center speculate that the reason behind the quick spreading of gastroenteritis and the common cold is due to close contact with peers, especially in living spaces.
“When living together, [illness] is going to spread quickly because you’re sharing every thing. [Students and teachers] cohabitate. Just like living in somebody’s house, if you get sick at home, chances are that your brothers and your sisters and your mom and dad [are] also going to get sick,” said Amy Avery, registered nurse at the Wellness Center.
Abhinav Tadikonda ’20 considers sickness as a burden to his social and academic life.
“When I did get a minor sickness, I felt tired all the time, and it was hard for me [to] find the energy to do homework and sports,” said Tadikonda.
Students agreed with Tadikonda, stressing that sickness brings disruptions to classes and schoolwork.
“It just makes you super tired and fatigued, but you know you really can’t miss a class because if you do, you might fall behind. you can’t miss your test, even though you can barely keep yourself awake and focused,” said Britney Bourassa ’18.
“I did have a cold and it made it harder to do my homework. When I get sick, it’s just hard to focus,” said Safi Zenger ’20.
A campus-wide email was sent out by the Wellness Center which highlighted the best course of action for fighting flu season. These steps included staying hydrated, eating healthy, sanitizing hands often, and receiving vaccines. The email also emphasized that getting enough sleep was imperative to a quick recovery.
Since the Wellness Center only has twelve beds for patients, students living within a two to three-hour driving distance were asked to return home. According to Amy Avery, Registered Nurse, ill students cannot attend school until their fever subsides for 12-24 hours.
“Students will be in the dorms with illness, as the Well- ness Center is caring for the sicker students. Please be attentive to the attendance system and mossprod alerts [system in place for faculty communication], and check in with your students who are sick to ensure that they are managing (eating, drinking, and resting). Please also check in with roommates and close contacts of sick students,” the email said.
Students are already taking precautions to avoid this year’s spread of illnesses.
“[To prevent illness] I drink lots of water, sleep, get workouts in, eat fruits and veggies. Also, it’s good to stay warm in jackets and hats,” said Martha Gao ’17.
Bourassa and Logan McLennan ’19 are both paying special attention to sanitization.
“I’ve been actively using hand sanitizer in commons, and washing my hands regularly,” said McLennan.
Bourassa added, “I’m just washing my hands a lot and trying to be aware of who’s sick and who’s not so that I don’t catch anything.”
Because the rising illnesses can be attributed to the lack of vaccinations, the seasonal influenza vaccine will now be available at the Wellness Center until February 15.