Practical ways to prevent sickness from spreading this seasonFriday, February 10, 2012 By Taylor Cole
"Contagion" sheds light on what could be known as a scary future and should be a reminder that we never want to let our germs take us over. In the movie, the origin of the deadly virus is "one contact, one instant." The spread of germs leads to a disease that kills millions. While nothing that drastic will ever happen at OHS, there are many practical methods students can use to prevent sickness. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, "if you don’t wash your hands frequently, you can pick up germs from other sources and then infect yourself." Students are at risk every time they touch their eyes, nose, or mouth. In fact, one of the most common ways people catch colds is by rubbing their nose or their eyes after the cold virus has gotten on their hands. The most effective way of preventing the spread of germs is washing your hands, which is something that students at OHS don’t do enough. Justin Steckman, a senior, claims he has seen a number of males not washing their hands after using the restroom. While Steckman may not worry about germs as often because they are so common, he would have to agree with Ruth Zinici, a senior, that hand washing should be a common courtesy and proper etiquette. "[Some students] have no respect for themselves or others," Steckman said. "If they did, they would take the extra few minutes to wash their hands." The truth is, washing your hands doesn’t take minutes, but seconds. Just 20 seconds with warm water and soap effectively sanitizes. I see too many people only rinsing their hands off in order to avoid receiving dirty looks for not doing so. According to the American journal of infection control, students don’t wash their hands often or well. In one study, only 58 percent of female and 48 percent of male middle and high school students washed their hands after using the restroom, and of these, only 33 percent of the females and 8 percent of the males used soap. Students have learned from a young age to cough and sneeze into their elbows in order to prevent spreading sickness from person to person, but it seems they are still uninformed. "All students should become aware of the harms of bacteria," Zinici said. "If people made washing their hands a habit then sickness may not be as prevalent." The most reoccurring ailment at OHS as of recently is upper respiratory infection. It entails headache, sinus and nasal congestion, stuffy nose, runny nose and sore throat. It’s spread through coughing, not covering your mouth and not washing your hands. Often times, however, the soap dispensers in the school lavatories are empty and the faucets don’t spout warm water. Without the necessary materials in which to ensure clean hands, OHS should expect more illness in the upcoming winter months. "The soap is supposed to filled when the restrooms are cleaned, but if they are not, then no one’s telling us," said Tim Vaughn, head of maintenance. "Just let us know and we’ll get it taken care of." While commitment to hand washing requires the dedication of time and supplies, the costs of not washing are far greater than the cost of washing. School achievement is affected by the number of students absent. It not only puts the sick students behind, but often makes other students have to wait for them to catch up. That being said, if you should find yourself vomiting, sick or just not feeling well, stay at home. Too many students come to school when they aren’t feeling well and it spreads germs quickly. "They come with fevers and really bad colds that turn into sinus infections and they’re not treating the symptoms before they reach bacterial infections," said Bridget Reynolds, school nurse. Some students have obligations that make coming to school every day mandatory. If students are absent more than six days they lose Rio Salado credit and athletes come to school so they can practice to ensure that they get to play. According to an ABC news broadcast, "Hand Washing Rates at All Time High," 80 percent of infectious diseases are passed through human contact, but they are also spread through the air. "Just breathing spreads sickness," Reynolds said. "Everyone breathes the same air in a class room and it’s the same air circulation." Keeping your body in tip-top shape is a beneficial defense against contagions. "The most important things are washing your hands, eating healthy, staying hydrated and getting enough rest," Reynolds said. "Those things will keep you from getting illnesses."