Students all over Duke’s campus have reported coughs, sore throats and fevers. But, per tradition, the freshmen class seems to have the most sick students and the worst symptoms.
John Vaughn, director of student health services, wrote in an email shedding light on why the freshman class tends to be hit hardest by sickness. He noted that coming in contact to so many people, often in confined spaces, is part of the problem.
“Every year, over a thousand new people come from all over the world and are suddenly crammed together into dorm rooms, classrooms, social events," Vaughn wrote. "At the same time you’re being exposed to new people, new cultures, new experiences, new perspectives… your immune system is exposed to new strains of viruses. Throw in lack of sleep, lack of regular meals, too much stress, too much excitement about–and fear of missing out on–any of the million exciting new opportunities that Duke offers and voila–you’ve got the Duke Plague.”
Many first-years aligned with Vaughn’s evaluation of how the 'plague' spreads, but found themselves surprised by how quickly they got sick.
“I didn’t expect to get sick this early, and I’m guessing it’s from grinding for school and staying up late,” said first-year Eugene Kim. “It definitely sucks to get sick in college compared to high school because in college there’s no time for you to recover... in high school, you can just skip school.”
When asked how he coped during the time he was sick, Kim said he tried sleeping more, eating healthier food and watching his favorite shows.
First-year Kayla Lattimore echoed many of Kim’s sentiments and noted she had similar symptoms.
“I was expecting to get sick coming here because everyone always talks about getting the ‘Freshman Plague,’” Lattimore said. “I feel like it could have a lot to do with the changing climate and the fact that everyone’s bringing their own germs to their dorms that others are exposed to and are not immune to.”
Lattimore, who was sick for three weeks, added that she regrets not going to the doctor. But, she said she got better with rest and eating regularly.
As the students have mentioned, there are certainly ways to both prevent getting sick and expedite recovery. Vaughn also made a few suggestions to stay healthy at Duke, including getting a flu shot, enough sleep, checking your temperature and washing your hands regularly.