Passing germs: an inevitable consequence of attending classes

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Madison MacArthur, a sophomore journalism major, blows her nose in her dorm room. She has been sick for four days.

Logan Lutton

Cold season has arrived at Kent State, and students and faculty will have to manage as best they can.

This onslaught of sickness is due to a combination of factors.

“Everyone is just coming back to school so you have a lot more potential for transmission,” said Tara Smith, an associate professor in the epidemiology department in the College of Public Health. 

This, combined with the lower temperatures of the fall, create an ideal environment for germs to thrive, Smith said.

The common cold is a viral infectious disease. Compared to other viruses like smallpox, which has been eradicated with vaccines, the common cold has too many vaccinations for one vaccine to cure. 

“Most of the colds you get are caused by a group of viruses called rhinoviruses,” Smith said. “Just within these rhinoviruses, there are about 120 different types. You can also have colds caused by endoviruses or metapneumoviruses.”

This is why it is possible to get sick multiple times a year.

“Even if you get one type one year, it’s not going to mean you’re immune to all the other types,” Smith said.

Unfortunately, there is not a lot of the sick can do in terms of treatment. Rest and over-the-counter medication are usually recommended.  

“In an ideal world, if you got sick, you would be able to stay home,” Smith said, “but we all have lives and we know it can’t stop for a common cold.”

Anna Mika, a senior anthropology major, has caught the back-to-school bug. Like many, she has not been able to stay home from class.

“All I’ve wanted to do is sleep, which is technically better for you body when you’re sick,” Mika said.” But, when you have four classes a day, you don’t really have that option to miss. You just have to function without actually functioning.”

There have been individuals on campus who have not been affected. Alysia Klein, a new faculty member and a fine arts graduate student, has remained healthy. It does not bother her when students attend her class with a cold.

“I think you have as much of a chance of getting sick walking into a classroom as you do going to the grocery store,” Klein said. “It’s hard to say though, because everyone’s immune system is different. Someone who does catch a cold once or twice a year may be more apprehensive.”  

Those who do need to be more wary are the elderly and those with pre-existing health concerns such as asthma.

“They can see symptoms of colds be worse than the average healthy person,” Smith said. “Luckily as college students, you are a young and healthy population.”

Logan Lutton is the science reporter. Contact her at [email protected]