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Column: No-no Tonorovirus

This story was written by Kevin Niparko, The Dartmouth


Last month, a near epidemic spread across the Georgetown University campus. According to The Hoya, nearly 200 undergraduates fell victim to the norovirus. This food-borne pathogen plagued the campus with nausea, diarrhea, vomiting and severe headaches. The university fell into a state of panic, and many students fled campus to escape the outbreak. The college administration discussed shutting down, but finally decided to maintain normal operations.

When it comes to being cautious about my health, Id say I oscillate between caveman and hypochondriac. The 10-second rule is gospel in my book. I think a little frat on a pong ball never hurt anyone, yet I use hand sanitizer 40 times a day. Some days I take a multivitamin. I dont get yearly check-ups, but I take Advil at the first sign of a headache. Salads are nice, butchicken cheesesteaks are incredible.

When I left for college, people warned me that I was going to get sick. It was inevitable the combination of environmental change, close living quarters and high-risk behavior was going to weaken my immune system and leave me susceptible to those inescapable pathogens.

I disregarded their warnings. I rarely got sick growing up, and I didnt miss a day of high school due to illness. Their predictions, however, proved correct. I have been sick three times already this term. My friends and classmates seem to have been battling the same illnesses, along with pinkeye, rashes and strep throat. Indeed, it seems as though almost everyone on campus is coughing and sneezing their way through class, and its not even flu season yet.

Dicks House, for the most part, does its best to keep us healthy. Theres hand sanitizer in all dining establishments, Undergraduate Advisors shell out condoms like hotcakes, and free flu vaccinations are offered to all students. I have to wonder whether we as a student body are taking advantage of everything Dicks House has to offer. As a group of my friends went to go get the flu vaccine, one lagged behind. If everyone else gets vaccinated, I wont have to, he insisted. Ive also rarely seen anyone use the hand sanitizer dispensers in the dining halls.

Partying at Dartmouth presents particular problems from a health standpoint. Alcohol weakens immune systems. The dance parties and hook-up culture bring strangers together for intimate bacteria contact and viral-ridden saliva swapping. The basement floors of some frats look like a urine-beer raincloud just passed through and deposited all of its contents.

But the most pressing issue is students knowingly putting each other at risk for spreading contagious illnesses. If you have pinkeye, should you really be down in the frat basement shaking peoples hands and grinding on every brother who walks by? Perhaps worst of all, this past weekend I witnessed a cluster-mate who had just recovered from a fever playing dice the most communal of all communal drinking games in a frat basement.

It seems as though we the students have come down with a terrible case of apathy. We have blindly accepted the fact that we are going to get sick despite the preventative measures we can take. We cannot blame our unpredictable health on the institution in place Dicks House has implemented measures to keep us safe and healthy. We as students must take the initiative to improve campus health. While it might not be ideal, sitting out one game of dice is a small sacrifice. Not to do so is inconsiderate and irresponsible. Something as small as washing your hands before using a Blitz terminal or getting a flu vaccine can make a big difference in the overall health of the campus.

It is only a matter of time before an outbreak like the norovirus hits Dartmouth. When it does, lets not get caught like deer in headlights. We must all tae responsibility for each others health. Illnesses on campus are inevitable, but their ubiquity is the result of our own unhealthy habits.

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