Top 5 Ways College Kids Will Get Swine Flu

Photo: College kids partake in activities that could make them more susceptible to swine flu.

Forget about good grades and securing a date for homecoming, college students heading back to campus have a far bigger concern: swine flu.

With the school year just starting, swine is already spreading across college campuses nationwide.

At least 150 suspected cases of students contracting the swine flu have been reported at Georgia Tech in Atlanta, and nearly 200 cases at the University of Kansas. School officials at the University of Tennessee have estimated 100 cases and at the University of Alabama there are more than 50 cases on just the first day alone.

VIDEO: Classrooms and dorm rooms are common places for incubation and transmission.
null

For more information about swine flu symptoms, treatment and prevention, check out the ABC News OnCall+ Swine Flu Center.

But with the combination of close living quarters, communal restrooms and large parties where cups and cans are swapped among friends, immunology experts say it's not a great surprise college kids are among the hardest hit by the flu.

"This virus is highly communicable and can spread very efficiently," said Dr. Philip Tierno, the director of clinical microbiology and immunology at NYU and the author of "The Secret Life of Germs."

"Swine flu is going to be a big issue at universities," said Tierno. Two factors – the sheer number of college-aged students on campuses as well as the time they spend interacting with one another – is likely to help the virus spread even faster.

For students trying to avoid contracting swine flu this semester, ABCNews.com identified five aspects of college life that are likely to attract and transmit the virus among students.

CLOSE LIVING QUARTERS

As if sleeping in a tiny dorm room wasn't uncomfortable enough, having a sick roommate sleeping just inches away from you will likely mean you'll get infected too.

"Bunk beds especially are a risk because an individual who is ill is going to be coughing, talking, sneezing and breathing and the virus can spread in that sort of proximity," said Tierno. "It's not a good idea for a kid with the flu to cohort with a kid who is healthy." (Indeed, some colleges have already announced plans to set up separate sleeping quarters for infected students.)

And don't even think about finding a safe haven in your dorm bathroom, said Dr. Len Horovitz, an infectious disease expert at New York's Lenox Hill Hospital.

For more information about swine flu symptoms, treatment and prevention, check out the ABC News OnCall+ Swine Flu Center.

"Sharing bathrooms means sharing faucets and sinks and surfaces where viruses can live and be transmitted from person to person," said Horovitz. "For example, turning of the handle will mean leaving the virus there for the next person who uses that sink to pick up."

Horovitz recommends splashing water over as much of the sink as possible prior to touching it to wash away any germs living on the surface and suggests using a paper towel to turn off the faucets rather than touching them with bare hands when you've finished.

LECTURE HALLS

Students this semester might find it easier to pay attention in class than to stay healthy, thanks to the desks in lecture rooms that are often touched, sneezed on and coughed on by hundreds of students a day.

"Inanimate surfaces are places where viruses can live for hours," said Horovitz.

He advises that even if you have washed your hands prior to entering a classroom you should avoid touching your face.

For more information about swine flu symptoms, treatment and prevention, check out the ABC News OnCall+ Swine Flu Center.

"Hand washing is only useful because we want to stop you from touching your face with your inoculated hands or touching someone else with them," said Horovitz. "But washing your hands periodically does nothing if you then go and touch yourself or someone else right away."

Students can carry a personal bottle of antibacterial hand sanitizer as well as disinfectant cloths to wipe down surfaces throughout the day, suggests Horowitz.

"A simple wipe down of the desk with a wet cloth is a very easy way to disinfect and protect yourself," he said.

DRINKING GAMES

For some students, drinking with their friends can be just as virus-prone as sitting at those germ-ridden classroom desks.

"You don't want to share utensils or drinking glasses when you've had direct saliva on them," said Horovitz. "Refrain from drinking games or just keep your own cup."

Tierno says that there is some truth to the fact that alcohol – even the type you drink – will kill germs, but only when the drink is pure liquor. Beer and wine won't kill off enough of the germs to make it safe to share cups.

For more information about swine flu symptoms, treatment and prevention, check out the ABC News OnCall+ Swine Flu Center.

"Lay off the drinking games if others are involved," said Tierno. "If you want to drink, drink on your own."

CAMPUS DINING HALLS

College students might want to think again before taking a heaping helping of food from a communal source like a salad bar.

"All people eating in cafeterias should not taste directly from the public trough, they should put things on their plate first," said Horovitz. "Hands should be washed and they should not share food or utensils with friends."

For more information about swine flu symptoms, treatment and prevention, check out the ABC News OnCall+ Swine Flu Center.

It would behoove students to also be diligent about wiping down surfaces that many other people touch – such as vending machine buttons – to prevent themselves from contracting viruses such as the swine flu.

"ATM machines, computers or whatever things are used by multiple people is what transfers a virus," said Teirno.

KISSING

Close contact of the sexual kind is at the top of many college students' favorite pastimes.

And, sure enough, the sex lives of university students is going to be yet another contributing factor to the spread of swine flu as the school year progresses.

Earlier this month the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advised students to wear surgical masks before kissing another person, a recommendation Horovitz deems "unrealistic."

For more information about swine flu symptoms, treatment and prevention, check out the ABC News OnCall+ Swine Flu Center.

"Kissing with masks isn't going to happen," said Horovitz. "Just wash your hands before you touch someone else and if you're going to have sex and share saliva, be careful."

Teirno said just being aware of the people you interact with and how they're feeling is a good way to protect yourself from getting sick too, or at least a good way to determine who you shouldn't swap spit with.

"If you're ill, don't do," said Teirno of kissing. "If you see someone who is overtly manifest with symptoms like coughing, running nose, weeping eyes and is obviously ill, stay away."

-- This embed didnt make it to copy for story id = 8436915. -- This embed didnt make it to copy for story id = 8436915. -- This embed didnt make it to copy for story id = 8436915. -- This embed didnt make it to copy for story id = 8436915. -- This embed didnt make it to copy for story id = 8436915. -- This embed didnt make it to copy for story id = 8436915. -- This embed didnt make it to copy for story id = 8436915. -- This embed didnt make it to copy for story id = 8436915. -- This embed didnt make it to copy for story id = 8436915. -- This embed didnt make it to copy for story id = 8436915. -- This embed didnt make it to copy for story id = 8436915. -- This embed didnt make it to copy for story id = 8436915. -- This embed didnt make it to copy for story id = 8436915. -- This embed didnt make it to copy for story id = 8436915.
Join the Discussion
blog comments powered by Disqus
 
You Might Also Like...