You may have noticed some subtle changes around campus recently. The lines in dining halls are growing longer, sushi in Frist is harder to come by, people are becoming less stingy about sharing food. Beds in McCosh are now vacant, and students can once again return freely to the Street without fear of automatic PMC. Talk of the dreaded gastroenteritis that has most likely been plaguing your thoughts and conversations over the last month seems to have died down, and we can begin to recover our regular discussions. And diets.
These apparent returns to normalcy beg the question at the top of everyone’s mind: Have we finally entered a post-Gastro era?
Over 260 students have sought treatment for gastroenteritis at Princeton’s McCosh Health Center since the first cases were identified on January 29. For weeks, the numbers of virus-infected patients grew, eventually crowding McCosh to full-capacity the weekend of February 16, forcing the UHS to send all extra patients, no matter the ailment, directly to the University Medical Center at Princeton.
But for all the hype it has generated amongst students, it turns out that the gastro hasn’t actually been as bad as the impression we’ve gotten here on campus, at least on a state level. According to the New Jersey Department of Health & Senior Services, the number of outbreaks in New Jersey this year have actually been fairly average. Numbers within the University community, however, have been unparalleled in recent history.
And though the rate of cases on campus now appears to be decreasing, indicating that Princeton may be on its way to gastro-freedom, I wouldn’t let down your guards quite yet. The CDC warns that a victim of the virus can be contagious for two or more weeks after recovery. What’s more, a person is capable of re-infecting himself if he doesn’t exercise proper hygiene, potentially submitting himself to repeated bouts of gastro. The very idea is nauseating.
Is there anything positive to be said of this legendary outbreak? If anything, the gastro debacle has certainly been a wake-up call to the community regarding the particulars of personal hygiene, an apparently highly controversial topic with the Princeton student body.
And, once again, we can thank the U-Store for the ever-present comfort they provide.