Colleges prone to stomach viruses

Everyone knows that winter time is synonymous with flu and cold season. But this year, there is another illness to be wary of: the stomach virus.

While the viruses that have hit schools close to the College have yet to be officially determined, the symptoms described sound suspiciously like outbreaks of gastroenteritis, an infection of both the stomach and the intestines that causes vomiting, nausea, diarrhea and fatigue.

In Gloucester County, 1,400 have come down with the virus and many have needed to be hospitalized.

The virus may last anywhere from 12 to 60 hours, which may not seem like a lot, but that’s not factoring in the time between when the virus has finished its business and you are fully recovered.

Perhaps the most dangerous aspect is that because symptoms don’t appear for 12 to 24 hours after infection, you could show no symptoms of having the virus and yet still spread it to all your friends.

Why is this stomach virus more prone to strike at schools than anywhere else?

Despite a few weeks of unseasonably warm weather, we’re still dealing with winter, which means people are going to be in closer proximity to one another indoors.

In fact, you are probably spending more time in your dorm room now than you would if it was March or April. That closer contact with people allows the virus to spread more rapidly.

There is also a lot to say about cleanliness. Many students are guilty of not keeping their rooms (especially their bathrooms) as clean and tidy as they should be. The best piece of advice is to clean your bathroom as thoroughly as possible.

Washing your hands after every class and every time you are in a group setting is also going to stave off infection.

If you get the virus, there are several things that you can do to speed up the recovery process:

– Do not force yourself to eat or drink anything until the vomiting and nausea have stopped. You can rinse your mouth after vomiting, but don’t swallow any water during this period.

– After the vomiting and nausea have subsided, drink clear liquids. Start slowly at first, but if you can keep it down, you can increase your intake. Clear liquids include water, ginger ale, sports drinks, decaffeinated soda and Kool-Aid.

– While the diarrhea is persisting, foods like bananas, toast, rice or applesauce are the best ways to get nourishment without upsetting your stomach.

– Avoid fatty or seasoned foods, dairy products, high fiber foods, caffeine and alcohol during this time. This may not be easy to do if you live on campus, but abstaining from these types of foods can cut your recovery time in half.

While something like gastroenteritis is not a pleasant thing to deal with, it is something that is easy to prevent and easy to treat should you get it.