It’s time for sickness, and the ‘rookie plague’

 

As the winter solstice draws near, students at Norwich University have started to prepare for flu and cold viruses and the “rookie plague,” according to Deb O’Hara, the head physician’s assistant at the NU infirmary.

While flu season has not officially struck, it’s important that students take the proper precautions to prepare for the impending wave of viruses, said O’Hara.

“It is a time for the rooks, who have already been through so much when their bodies begin to wear down,” O’Hara said, “they are not getting adequate sleep and are under a lot of stress.”

These contributing factors often lead to sickness and she advised that students should take the proper precautions to prevent getting sick.

O’Hara stresses that one night of inadequate sleep can cause a “50 percent decrease in your immune system’s defenses.”

That message resonates with students such as Ian McAdorey, 19, a sophomore engineering and construction management major from Parkland, Fla.

McAdorey was a rook last year and states that he was under a lot of stress and suffered from a lack of adequate sleep.

“If you are not taking care of yourself you are going to get sick,” he said, “and the little things like not getting sleep are going to add up and make you sick.”

Aside from sleep deficiencies and stress, there are other factors that can contribute to sickness among students, said O’Hara.

“People tend to clump up together more inside as it gets darker and colder,” O’Hara said. “The closer you are in proximity to people, the more likely you are to get sick,” she explained.

Some students, on the other hand, express the view that staying inside is preventing them from being sick.

“A lot of students don’t seem to go outside very much when it’s cold,” said Sheyra Concepcion, 18, a political science major from Kissimmee, Fla. “Since people are not out in the open, I don’t see a lot of people getting sick.”

However, other students agree that being indoors can increase one’s chances of getting sick.

Jenn Passalaqua, 20, is a junior communications major from Geneva, N.Y. and she agrees with O’Hara.

“Everyone lives together so you are surrounded by germs,” she said. “Other people use the same bathrooms and drinking fountains as you do, so germs can spread really quickly.”

O’Hara suggests that being outside in the cold can help in preventing sickness.

“You are better off being outside for a good portion of the day,” she said, “Germs spread quicker when you are surrounded by people in small spaces.”

Both O’Hara and Concepcion note that Norwich University students come from a wide variety of areas and that means there is opportunity for viruses and germs to be introduced to campus.

“Freshmen come from all different places around the world,” Concepcion said, “and they bring germs that others might not be used to.”

O’Hara points out that students come from not only all around America, but the world as well, and that they may be immune to viruses that are endemic to where they are from. But “when they come to Norwich they are exposed to many types of sicknesses that might not be common in their hometowns.”

A sickness known at Norwich as the “rookie plague”, is a common topic around this time, according to O’Hara.

“Around December and through February, you see a lot of the rooks getting sick,” she said, noting they become rundown and students assume there is some kind of specific rook illness.

O’Hara said that when the rooks get the “rookie plague” it is not just one type of virus, but anything from the common cold to the flu.

McAdorey agrees “rookie plague” is somewhat of a myth.

“It’s not a real thing, people think it comes around February and knocks all the rooks out,” he said, “just because they are not used to being in the cold so much.”

Whether it is the “rookie plague” or a slew of other common viruses, O’Hara suggests taking precautions to prevent getting sick.

“The most important thing is to rest when you feel like you need to and to get a lot of sleep,” she said, “being well-rested is your best defense.”

Passalaqua thinks that heeding this advice would have prevented her from becoming ill recently. “If I had gotten sleep and not have gone out so much, I don’t think I would have gotten sick.”

Besides adequate rest, O’Hara also suggests keeping good hygiene, but not being too obsessive.

“Don’t be a germaphobe and wash your hands all the time,” she said, as being too clean can leave you susceptible to more viruses.

Some students, such as Tim Hunter, 20, a junior biology major from Exeter, N.H., do think that over-cleanliness is the way to prevent being sick.

“I use a lot of hand sanitizer, try to wash my hands whenever I can and take a lot of showers” he said, “I am always very clean and haven’t gotten sick yet.”

McAdorey suggests that it’s the little things you can do that matter.

“ You have to do what you can to build up immunity,” he said, “even if it means just taking your vitamins.”

Both O’Hara and McAdorey stress that it is important that students do not spread their germs to others and use courtesy precautions.

“Giving your germs to other people is not nice even if it’s unintentional,” McAdorey said, “make sure you cover your nose when you sneeze.”

O’Hara agrees that it is worthwhile to cover your nose and mouth when you sneeze or cough, but other factors are also important. “Get outside, get sleep, and don’t stay cramped up.” she said.

 

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