Back to School Bacteria
Heading back to campus, or making your first trip on move-in day can signify the start of some of the best times of your life - if you play it right. College campuses, though they harbor tons of fun and learning possibilities, also function as breeding grounds for some of the worst viruses out there. Besides the common flu, and foodborne diseases, some of the diseases to look for on campus are meningitis, mononucleosis, and strep throat.
Most common for freshman and other dorm habitants, meningitis is the inflammation of the membranes surrounding the brain and spinal cord. Symptoms of meningitis include headache, fever, and a stiff neck, but can also include sensitivity to light, confusion, and seizures. It is important to receive treatment for meningitis as soon as possible. Vaccines are available for children and adults to help immunize from the disease.
Commonly known as mono, this illness is caused by Epstein-Barr virus and is spread through contact with saliva, mucus, and sometimes tears. Symptoms of mono are fever, sore throat, swollen lymph nodes, weakness, and fatigue. Symptoms of mono may not appear until four to six weeks after exposure to the virus, so it is often spread unknowingly. The greatest risk of mono is damage to the spleen, which is weakened and at risk of bursting. If pain in the upper left belly occurs, seek medical treatment immediately.
No vaccine exists for strep throat. This contagious disease, spread through saliva, is bacterial and can vary in severity from person to person. The most common symptoms are sudden fever, sore throat (signified by white patches), headache, chills, loss of appetite, and swollen lymph nodes. A trip to the doctor and a quick strep test can confirm the diagnosis, but strep can be treated with hot tea, cold liquids, lozenges, and rest.
This semester, be sure to make time for rest - a well rested body is the best way to help your immune system fight off possible diseases caught in close-quarters and through shared solo cups.