Student Health has seen roughly 40% of student population since August

Caroline Fassett, Print Managing Editor

In recent weeks, both University professors and students have likely recognized an increasing number of student absences in their classes. Yet these vacancies in the classroom do not necessarily signify student apathy or laziness; according to Student Educator for the Student Health Center Melissa Allen, approximately 1,450 patients, or roughly 40% of the student population, have visited the Center this semester alone. The most recurrent illnesses that have been diagnosed include sore throat, viral upper respiratory infection, and cough. A number of these patients have also been diagnosed with conjunctivitis, or pink eye.

Allen confirmed that it is typical for the student body, particularly first-year students, to become afflicted with these types of illnesses around this time of year.

…[A] majority of our visits this time of year are first-year students for reasons such as new germ exposures with living in close quarters and new responsibility and independence for knowing how to take care of yourself to stay well,” Allen said.

Allen added that students of all class levels become ill due to other factors as well, including improper hand washing, lack of sleep, and from attending gatherings where “germs are shared through coughing, talking, kissing, and sharing drinks.”

Although a fewer number of students have visited the Center in comparison to that of last year, the percentage of students that have been tested for sexually-transmitted diseases or infections (STDs/STIs) has remained constant, and there has been a notable increase in the number of students who have tested positive for them.

“Percentage wise, we have tested for STD/STI at the same rate, about five percent of visits, that we did in September of 2016. But we have had a slightly higher positive result rate this year, 11 percent, as compared to last year, [which was] 8 percent,” Allen said.

The Center has been pursuing student-targeted actions to reinforce the importance of testing for STDs/STIs, offering free testing clinics twice a semester and providing education about these diseases through assorted methods. To decrease exposures and risks to STDs/STIs, Allen recommends that students use condoms or other barriers properly with each sexual encounter and consider getting vaccinated for the human papillomavirus (HPV).

Additionally, Allen advised that students properly wash their hands, eat a balanced diet, get a flu shot, and limit their use of alcohol and other drugs in order to avert illness. Above all else, Allen emphasized sleep as “[p]erhaps the best way to stay healthy physically, mentally, and academically,” stating that individuals between the ages of 18 and 24 should be getting between seven and nine hours of sleep a night.

“Unfortunately, sleep is one of the first things we sacrifice when we need to get things done or want to socialize. It is important to note that sleep is vitally important for our mood, memory and learning, tissue repair, and immune functioning.  Without adequate sleep, we can quickly become grumpy, unfocused, and ill. I recommend scheduling sleep time so it is built into your calendar and you are less likely to cut it short,” Allen said.

Allen added that the goal of the Center is to establish a healthy campus community, which it strives to achieve through either directly treating illnesses with medications or through teaching students various self-care techniques.

“We are happy to be a resource when students have questions, and to provide prevention services such as health education materials and outreach endeavors … Please watch the [Bucknell] Message Center for information or scheduled health-related activities,” Allen said.

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