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Keep your germs to yourself!

If you get sick, either stay home or be mindful of how you might spread germs

Mega Sneeze

This unfortunate beard is not necessarily a symptom of the flu, but who wants to take that chance? – Courtesy of Wikipedia Commons

NEW WESTMINSTER (Canadian University Press) — There are a lot of things to worry about at the beginning of any new semester, but winter poses particular challenges for students.

Challenges that, according to my cursory field research, the average student is grossly incapable of facing head-on. Challenges like the flu and its less viral cousin, the common cold, both of which are making their evil, contagious way across the Canadian wilderness. Full-blown cold and flu season: coming soon to a classroom or bus near you! Why do I claim that students can’t cope? Because I see the same gross things every day.

People on the busses and trains sneeze right into my face. People at school cough all over the public computers, their germy mouth-spray infecting keyboards that countless other students have to use. Students walking the halls like zombies or plague victims, their glazed eyes darting back and forth, their feverish skin glowing like a beacon that screams “Infected! Infected!”

The CBC reported January 3 that a new strain of flu, which broke out over the holidays, is seeing increased cases in metropolitan areas of Canada. Health Canada says there are 15 times the number of cases from last year. Virus rates are up, but the CBC says the peak is yet to come. They report that in two to three weeks, even more people across Canada will be hit by this particular flu.

Like most strains of influenza, the one hitting Canada right now (the elegantly named H3N2 subtype) affects the most vulnerable members of our population: the elderly and infants under one year of age. But that doesn’t mean students can’t or shouldn’t do their part. The use of vaccines in controlling virus outbreaks, while controversial among some people, is well-documented and endorsed by public health officials. It’s not too late to get your vaccine if you haven’t already got the flu!

While it might be tempting to play through the pain and take your cold or flu to school for show-and-tell, we would all prefer that you didn’t, thanks. Even instructors at the college would rather you stay at home; I have yet to see one course outline that doesn’t excuse absences for a medical reason. So, fellow students, between now and that dreaded peak flu time, let’s all make a greater effort to follow some basic winter disease etiquette.

For starters, just stay home! I know not everyone can afford to take time off work, but if you can, for the sake of my health, please do. Secondly, if you must venture into the world, know where to cough and sneeze: no coughing on other people, books, desks, SkyTrain poles, or your hand. The best place to cough is in the crook of your arm. The best way to wash your hands is with soap and warm water, and for at least 15 seconds according to Health Canada. The best place to put a soiled Kleenex is in the garbage, immediately.

Where’s the best place to put yourself when you come down with the cold or flu? That would be at home, in bed, with a healthy dose of chicken soup and Netflix.

– Sophie Ibister (the Other Press, Douglas College.[hr]

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