Sick Students Overwhelm Isham

A daily average of 150 students, approximately 15 percent of the student body, visited Isham Health Center last week. Last Monday, a record of 180 students visited the health center. Isham also saw a seven percent increase in the number of patients compared to previous winters. Dr. Richard Keller, School Physician, said that last week was the busiest one he has experienced during his career at Phillips Academy. Katherine Vozeolas, Director of Nursing, said that Isham added an extra evening nurse Sunday through Thursday because of the high number of sick students. Mary Connolly, Registered Nurse at Isham, said that she believes students did not visit Isham last week only to miss class. “The students who came in were definitely ill. I always think there are always some kids who try to get into Isham to skip class, but I think this time most of the cases were pretty serious,” said Connolly. Vozeolas said, “There have not been a lot of students that we think, ‘He’s faking it.’ It’s not a very big concern to us.” But Cathleen DiFronzo, Registered Nurse, said that not all of the students needed to use the fatigue room. “Even though they had colds, it wasn’t that they couldn’t attend classes. Some of [the students] had the type [of illness] where they didn’t really need to sleep it off,” said DiFronzo. The influx of students at Isham Health Center has also been affecting interscholastic sports practices and games in the past week. According to Catherine Coppinger ’09, Co-Captain of Girls Varsity Basketball, five out of the 12 players on the team could not make practice on Friday due to illness. As a result, basketball practice had to be adjusted for seven players. Ben Burke ’11, a member of the Boys Junior Varsity Hockey team, said, “Around eight kids were out of practice. Our game against Belmont Hill had to be cancelled.” At least two players on the Girls Junior Varsity Hockey team missed practice every day last week because of illness, said Emily Rademacher ’11, a member of the team. Rademacher said that the lineups of the hockey team had to be shifted accordingly. Vozeolas said that there have been a handful of students diagnosed with the flu, but she declined to give exact numbers. She said, “The flu vaccine doesn’t always guarantee that you will not get the flu.” Other common cases among patients included upper respiratory infections. “We’ve seen a number of kids with a fever, chills, body aches, headaches, extreme fatigue, cough and some nausea and vomiting,” said Vozeolas. Keller said, “The common cold has well over 100 different strains. As a result, students are only becoming immune to a few of these different strains and are always at risk of getting sick again.” He continued, “The viruses circulating right now are particularly nasty and contagious. Other schools are probably just as sick as [we are].” According to Vozeolas, the Pingree School in South Hamilton, Massachusetts shut down for a few days due to the number of students that were sick. The Brooks School in North Andover, Massachusetts, also considered shutting down for a few days due to illness. “In general, people get sicker in the winter because they are all congregating indoors amongst each other,” said Keller. “Most viruses are contagious several days before the person actually gets sick so many times, we are exposed to illnesses without even knowing it.” “Living on a rather small, encased campus, PA students are around each other so much,” said Connolly. “That’s how some [viruses] spread so quickly.” Vozeolas said that she believes students’ busy lives at Andover might make them more likely to fall ill. “I think that the [students] all have a rigorous schedule here, and not everyone takes the best care of themselves. [Being tired] does make you more susceptible to illness because when you’re exhausted, you don’t feel well,” said Vozeolas. Dr. Keller has sent multiple emails to the Andover community with measures to prevent the spread of germs and viruses. DiFronzo said, “In a boarding school, there is no way to truly prevent sickness. The kids here are not isolated. Plus, if they do not come in contact with these viruses in the classroom, they will certainly encounter them somewhere else, for example in Uncommons.” Vozeolas said 69 students visited the Isham Health Center on Wednesday, a significant decrease from the previous week. “[The viruses that have been spreading] seem to be slowing down,” said Vozeolas. Yerin Pak and Julia Zorthian contributed reporting.