UCF’s 2014 Panhellenic Council’s sorority recruitment saw the highest number of potential new members it has seen in years. Nearly a thousand college women walked from house to house on Greek Park Drive to visit 11 chapters. Between the hot weather, the long days, and the heels, recruitment week is always a grueling process. It may be no surprise, then, that UCF Health Services had an influx of students with cold or flu-like symptoms that seemed to occur just after the end of formal recruitment.
According to Megan Pabian, coordinator of University Relations and Public Affairs for UCF Health Services, the UCF Health Center receives approximately 6,000 student patients, each year, during cold and flu season.
This year, in particular, cold and flu season seems to have hit the University earlier than usual. Though flu season normally occurs during the months of October through March, the health center was seeing positive flu testing results as early as late August -- just after the end of formal recruitment.
Pabian said this past September was, “the busiest September on record.” This was also the second year in a row that the health center was seeing positive flu tests in late August. The increase of patients at the health center, she said, seem to coincide with formal recruitment. Fabiana Narsete, a sophomore communications major, said that she suffered from the flu shortly after going through formal recruitment. After a few days of feeling horribly ill, Narsete decided to go to the health center on campus and was seen by a nurse practitioner.
"As soon as I walked in," Narsete explained, "the nurse asked me, 'Did you go through recruitment?’ I said, 'yeah.' And she told me she received so many girls. 'We get them every year.'"
Narsete tested positive for influenza, and was not allowed to return to class until she received medical clearance from the health center five days later.
Victoria Verville, a sophomore business marketing major, also suffered from flu-like symptoms, but decided not to go to the health center. “I think, like, 15 girls in [Kappa Alpha] Theta got sick,” she recalled. “But none of us wanted to go to the health center during recruitment because it was more important to be there.”
One student had to drop out of recruitment, last year, because of health issues. Naomi Henderson, a sophomore film major, said she was bedridden for the entire week of recruitment. “By the time I went to the doctor [to find out what was wrong], they said it was too late to know,” she said. Henderson went through formal recruitment again this year, but took extra precautions not to get sick again. “I made sure I had Vitamin C, EmergenC and was really careful with where I touched my hands on my face,” she said.
Senior anthropology major, Shannon Payne, said she has seen her fair share of illnesses during recruitment. “It’s not at all uncommon,” she said. “A lot of girls lose their voices.” Payne had to sit out this past year’s recruitment process due to a sinus infection she caught on her way to Orlando from her hometown in Virginia.
When asked what may have caused the earlier positive influenza testing results, Pabian said, “We can make all the assumptions we want, but we don’t have proven reasons why.” One reason may be the stress that comes with recruiting nearly 1,000 new members into 11 Panhellenic sororities.
Verville said her days during the recruitment week lasted from about 8 a.m. until as late at 10 p.m. “Germs are being spread very quickly, because there are a lot of girls in one space,” she said. “I think it is inevitable,” said Narsete. “You know, it comes with the stress of waking up early and rushing there, and rushing here, not eating properly because we don’t have lunch breaks. So, I think all of that together, you know, it’s easy to get sick that way, when you’re tired and hungry and stressed out. Of course you’re going to get sick.”
If a student is feeling flu-like symptoms, the health care center at UCF is a flu sentinel site, meaning that they will test students for flu and record the results in order to better prepare for future flu seasons. Students can receive free flu vaccinations, as well as cold and flu care, on campus.
Pabian says marketing these resources on campus is important to make sure students are succeeding, academically. “People think they can just tough it out, but having the flu can be detrimental to a student’s academic success,” she said. Although this is the second year in a row that the flu hit UCF campus earlier than normal, only time will tell whether the influx was merely coincidental, or something that needs more serious attention.
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