The beginning of a new semester represents a fresh start in so many ways. We have a chance to improve our study habits and procrastinate less. Some of us become more motivated to keep up with our resolutions to exercise and eat a more balanced diet. We can finally get back to our school-year schedules of spending time with friends and balancing productive work and extracurricular commitments.
But, a new semester also means that every student returning to the school or university will be bringing with them a host of new germs from home. And this is a germophobe's worst nightmare.
Especially in the university climate, we are constantly hearing horror stories about campus outbreaks of mumps or meningitis, and we all have friends who have suffered through months of feeling completely drained due to the ever-infamous mononucleosis.
But there are countless germs to fear besides the ones that cause these nightmarish illnesses. There are so many different variations of the virus that causes colds that it seems that we can end up sick with a new version every week. The flu virus comes back in a different form every year, and even if we get the shot to try to protect ourselves, we still may end up hit by a slightly different strain of the virus.
So what are we to do? Those of us who fear contagion from this human petri dish which we call a university may take rational precautions, like loading up on vitamins such as Vitamin C to try to boost our immune systems. We drink lots of water, wash or sanitize our hands more frequently, try to get enough sleep each night, and generally make sure we are taking care of ourselves. Even then, all we can do is pray that these measures are effective in combating illnesses.
Of course, there are others of us that perhaps still realize the threat of illness, but either refuse to acknowledge it or do not fear it like the rest of us do. These are the people who touch an elevator button, handrail, or water fountain and then proceed to eat their sandwich without sanitizing. Frequently, they claim that their habits contribute to a stronger immune system, but the rest of us are still skeptical.
Finally, the few that remain can be categorized as the hard-core germophobes. We are the brave few who prioritize our own health and that of those around us, even at the expense of functioning like a normal human being. We avoid sick people like they have, well, the plague, even if it means leaving a couple empty seats between our sick friend in history lecture. We do our best to avoid contact with contaminated surfaces, opening doors with our elbows and ALWAYS using some kind of a barrier to touch the tap and the door in public restrooms.
And God forbid that someone we live with gets sick; if they refuse to quarantine themselves, then they can expect to see very little of their germophobe friend until they stop coughing and sneezing. And naturally, the entire living space will have to be disinfected; it will most likely be drowned in successive baths of Lysol mist until every living thing, whether infectious disease or innocent housemate, is petrified in germ-fighting freshness.
Clearly, this issue creates a spectrum of possible responses, bookended by two terrifying extremes. Here's hoping that we can all take care of ourselves and prevent any major health crises in our schools or homes. But even though it's probably not worth it to be this worried or stressed about getting sick, I think we can all agree that a little Lysol never hurt.