Editor's note: This is the campus perspective provided by our partner UWire.com. Author Lacee Solis is a student at Cal State-Fresno.
Disgusted looks from classmates darted my way as I sneezed, yet again, hoping my Kleenex would act as a barricade from the myriad of germs that spewed out each time this involuntary action occurred.
I could feel their repulsion encapsulate me while I innocently took notes between stints of rubbing my hands feverishly with hand sanitizer. I knew exactly what lay behind those ill-drawn faces: “great, I get to be in class with ‘swine-flu girl’ spreading her germs for all to share.” May I reassure you that a couple sneezes do not a sick person make!
The swine flu, more formally known as H1N1, has headlined most news stories since it’s emergence earlier this year. There isn’t a day that goes by without breaking news of a newly discovered case or some health expert distributing fairly obvious ways to stay free of contamination: it’s called good hygiene.
All the media coverage has created a sort of hysteria within the nation. The public’s fear has manifested in response to the H1N1 virus, which has led to schools shutting down and some college campuses creating “quarantine wards” to keep ill students living on campus segregated from their fellow dorm mates. Sick people are urged, if not socially condemned, to stay home and isolate themselves from the masses until they are fully recovered.
I must confess that the cynical side of me finds the hype questionable, to say the least. I tend to get on the defensive anytime I feel like an issue is extensively magnified by the media. However, I felt my guard waning a few days after my insecurity-inducing sneezing episode.
I was in an overly-crowded lecture hall when the young lady sitting to the left of me broke out in a melody of intertwining coughs and sneezes. I tried to inch as far to the opposite side of my seat as the compact space would allow, while attempting to revive my breath holding capabilities that won me many underwater contests as a kid. I quickly became innovative and used my left hand as a make-shift face mask, covering the possible entryways her germs could infiltrate my body to eventually wreak havoc on my immune system.
The very first thought that popped into my head: “just my luck, I get to sit next to this girl and her swine-flu-infested-self.” This, of course, makes me a complete hypocrite for buying into the very same frenzy I have openly criticized.
I admit it took me awhile, along with many Halls Defense Vitamin C lozenges and surgeon-worthy hand washes, to realize the extreme measures I had taken as a result of my exposure to a few coughs and sniffles. Yes, so I may have exaggerated the severity of her symptoms a bit.
While I am not one to further propagate the hysteria I must confess that when faced with the possible H1N1 scenario, my concerns rapidly transformed into unconscious paranoia. And while I have been able to keep my paranoia to a minimum, I have stocked up on pocket-sized hand sanitizers and Halls, just in case.