A few weeks ago, a reader asked how our campuses were dealing with swine flu. At that point, H1N1 was a looming threat, but had not yet hit.
Well, now it has. It is estimated that 10% of Swarthmore’s campus is suffering from it. Students with mild cases are encouraged to stay in their dorm rooms and recover, both for their own good and the good of the community, while more serious cases, showing symptoms like difficulty breathing, are encouraged to seek further medical assistance.
Unfortunately, from an epidemiological point of view, this is also the weekend of one of the campus’ biggest social events of the year – the Halloween party. Over the past few days, there have been emails from administrators pleading with students to skip the party if they feel ill, and emails from the student organizers informing students of measures being taken to try to minimize contagion. There will be a surplus of cups so students won’t be tempted to share them, snacks will be individually wrapped and all the party monitors will be equipped with antibacterial gels and wipes, I guess in case someone who looks fluey bumps up against them. I’m not sure if any of these measures will really help, but people feel that they have to do SOMETHING. Maybe I’m projecting, but reading these urgent emails, I felt the desire to cancel the whole darn thing was palpable.
I am struck by the number of sick students who come to my office to talk. One even told me she’d been missing her classes, which then freed up her time to come in and see me. When I tell them to go home, they think I’m being maternal, and it doesn’t seem to occur to them that they might infect ME. (A colleague keeps disinfectant wipes and spray in her office to use the minute one of these coughing, sniffling students leaves.) Here’s hoping that swine flu shot I got in the 1970’s, thanks to President Ford, still offers me some immunity.
Meanwhile, my little dog was summoned to his vet today to get his H3N8 flu shot. So at least someone will stay healthy at my house.