Mononucleosis spreads on college campuses
Stress. Fatigue. Exposure.
These are just three of several factors leading to a variety of health issues appearing on college campuses.
But with the season changing and midterms approaching, is getting sick inevitable?
“Presently, we are seeing upper respiratory viral infections and quite a few throat infections,” says Director of Student Health Center Julia Duffy. “We also see mononucleosis [mono] on a regular basis.”
Because college campuses are prone to breeding bacteria and viruses, it is important for students to recognize and recover from some of the most common ailments. These ailments include:
Upper Respiratory Infection: also referred to as the “common cold.” This virus usually includes congestion, runny nose, coughing, sneezing, body aches and sore throat.
Mononucleosis [Mono]: an infection caused by the Epstein-Barr virus. Symptoms include a severe sore throat, depression, extreme fatigue, loss of appetite and fever.
Strep Infection: an infection caused by the bacteria group A streptococcus. Symptoms resemble those of mono, but are often less severe and respond to antibiotics almost immediately.
Conjunctivitis: commonly referred to as “pink eye.” This viral or bacterial infection is characterized by eye irritation, inflammation, redness and watering. It usually resolves without treatment or if necessary, with eye drops.
While most common college sicknesses quickly respond to medication or just need time to run their course, “Mono has a propensity to affect college age students,” says Duffy. “It is spread through saliva. Therefore, kissing, sharing glasses or sharing cigarettes will foster transmission.”
This infection damages the white blood cells, producing weakness and other painful symptoms as a result.
But why should students worry about it more than the average person?
While about 50 percent of people contract this infection by the age of five, it manages to affect one of every 200 college students each year, according to ABC News. The spread seen on campuses may be caused by the mono never fully leaving the immune system, students living together in closed quarters or a behavior as simple as sharing a cup at a party.
“Mono is difficult to prevent since most college students are exposed to the Epstein Barr virus (EBV) in multiple ways during an average day,” says Professor of Nursing Sheila Grossman. “It would be best to follow common sense and avoid using drinking glasses and other personal items of others.”
And though most people recover in two to three weeks time, mono can become dangerous if left untreated.
A student diagnosed with mono should, according to WebMD:
Rest: the main treatment for mono, sleep and relaxation are necessary in recovery. After contracting the illness, it is common for a student to miss work and classes.
Avoid Sports: sports and other physical activity can easily cause a ruptured spleen, which usually requires emergency surgery to repair.
Take Tylenol or Ibuprofen: these drugs will reduce the fever and relieve some of the irritating, painful symptoms the illness produces.
Try eating as much as possible: though mono often takes away the appetite, five small meals a day will are suggested for giving a patient the energy needed for recovery.
“Having several friends who have had [mono] during their time in college, I think it is safe to assume it’s a common issue,” says nursing student Jenna Goldbach ’13. “It’s an irritating illness, but frequently washing your hands and avoiding other sources of germs can prevent the spread to some extent.”
So the next time you are at a party or out to dinner with friends, avoid sharing that drink to reduce the possibility of contracting this painful, inconvenient infection.