Infection: Avoiding it like the plague

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By Adit Selvaraj

Winter may be over, but the germs and the illnesses they bring don’t take a summer vacation.

Aarti Raja, associate professor in NSU’s department of biological sciences and specialist in microbiology, shared her tips and advice about avoiding sickness when living on campus.

What are some preventive measures you suggest to prevent contracting an illness while staying in the dorms?

“For most students staying in the dorms, in general the best preventive measures are good nutrition and good exercise.

“Nutrition is important to prevent illness. Definitely plan to eat a regular breakfast, lunch and dinner. Even if you can’t get the healthiest of foods, at least have a routine in place. Having a routine is very good. Make sure to eat around the same time every day. Ensuring that you don’t skip meals, especially breakfast, [is] a good start.

“Being a scientist and virologist, I’m a big proponent of vaccinations. Getting vaccinated can protect not only yourself, but the people around you as well. Staying on top of your vaccinations is imperative. You have to know what vaccinations you need, when you need them, and so on and so forth.

“Basic diseases, basic infectious diseases at least, are the usual culprits that make students sick. The flu, which happens typically during September through November, is a big thing for students to watch out for. However, NSU offers flu vaccinations every year, for everyone on campus. They have set dates at different locations on campus where you can get them. If you show up with your ID, and if you have insurance through the university, or even if you have insurance from an outside source, you’re allowed to go in and get those vaccines. It’s a great program and something that students should look at.

“A lot of times people think, ‘Well, I’m healthy, I don’t need this, I don’t have to worry about it,’ but when you live in the dorms and around other students, some of them who may have not gotten vaccinated or have traveled a lot, putting them in contact with potential non-native diseases, you never know who could be carrying a virus. Getting vaccinated will decrease the likelihood of contracting a disease from others.”

Are there any resources for on-campus students to seek medical treatment or maintain a healthy lifestyle?

“Definitely. Make sure you receive medical care. I know many students think that they’ll just fight the disease off and they’ll eventually get better, but sometimes that’s not the best way to go about it.

“Sometimes you’re not aware of your health or how to improve it and don’t know where to go to for help. That’s fine, because [NSU] has medical facilities for all students, faculty and staff so at least we have access to resources even for students on the campus. NSU has facilities where you can receive general care, such as the Sanford L. Ziff Healthcare Center. As long as you are a registered student with an ID, you should be able to go in and someone will be available to see you and provide services and suggestions with regards to getting over a particular ailment or even general health tips so you can maintain your health.

“NSU also has a large recreational and wellness center, and they offer a slew of exercise equipment and programs you can use at no charge. It’s all readily available. A lot of times students either don’t know about the facilities or don’t want to make the effort to go out. I recommend going to the recreational center with a group of friends to motivate you and force you to stick to a schedule.

“Physical health is not the only thing that is important. There’s also mental health as well. There are counseling services readily available for students and faculty members. It’s important to know what facilities are there and utilize them to the fullest.”

Is there anything students can do to make sure they don’t repeatedly get sick?  Is there anything related to the living space that can contribute to sickness?

“To ensure your dorms are the right environment to maintain your health, of course one of the things you must do is have a clean living space. If you are living with another person, it’s important that both you and your roommate do your share to keep your space clean. Sometimes it’s as simple as cleaning once a week, if that’s the only time you have to do so. Wipe down counters, sweep the dust under your bed, clean the bathroom. Keeping a clean environment prevents transmission of microorganisms that can make you sick and reduces the chance of illness greatly.

“If you share common areas like kitchens, make sure to keep those clean, because not only are you going to be using them, but others will be as well. Additionally, if you’re sharing refrigerators, make sure to check once a week for food that is going bad or growing mold and dispose of them.

“Be aware that having a clean living space and cleaning regularly can make a huge difference to your overall health. As a college student, your immune system probably isn’t functioning at its best due to stress and other factors. Putting yourself in an environment that isn’t clean, compounded by a weakened immune system, puts you at greater risk of being sick.

“Good personal hygiene and a basic health regimen are imperative, whether you are a commuter or living on campus.”

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