A Butler University flu season reminder

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons. 

CLAIRE BARNETT | OPINION COLUMNIST | cgbarnet@butler.edu

I invite you all to imagine with me all of the surfaces that your hands might touch in a 24-hour period as a student on this campus. From the moment you wake up to the second your head hits your pillow in the evening, your fingers are parading about every surface, from the desktop of your unofficially self-assigned seat in your GHS to shared staplers at Irwin to the questionably upholstered Starbucks chairs to door handles into Jordan. I now invite you all to imagine the hundreds, if not thousands of others on campus who have touched these same places within the same 24-hour period.

On an average day, this is not a fact that we pay any particular attention to. This fact only begins to matter when you wake up one morning at 8 with a scratchy feeling in your throat. By 10 a.m., your body is achy, and by noon, you’re feeling feverish. And once you’ve hit this unfortunate point of no return, no amount of Emergen-C you buy and force into your system in a last-ditch attempt to save your compromised immune system is going to be able to revive you.

Given that it is January, everyone’s favorite seasonal virus — influenza — is beginning to take hold of our campus, as well as Indiana as a whole. According to the Indiana State Department of Health’s Weekly Influenza Report, during the week of Jan. 12 to Jan. 18, influenza-like illnesses are widespread across the state, and regardless of whether or not you trekked to the HRC last month to receive your free flu shot, no one is immune.

It is a rather unpleasant reality of being human that our health is somewhat reliant on the hygiene of other people. You might be sure to spray off every inch of the treadmill you used at the gym, but who’s to say that everyone that used it before you did the same? You might also be careful to touch only the one banana you intend to pick up and take along with you after dinner at Atherton, but I can tell you with certainty that someone else has already run their grimy hands over the entire bunch.

Many of us might think we don’t owe anyone on this campus anything at all — other than thousands upon thousands of dollars in student loans that we all inevitably owe the office of student accounts. However, we do owe each other basic human decency. And from my perspective, that begins with washing your filthy hands.

The flu is one of the worst kinds of debilitating miseries. You’ll lay in a helplessly cold-sweat in your twin XL and call upon your friends to bring back a bottle of Gatorade and some Rice Crispies for you from dinner, and they’ll draw straws to determine who has to be so unlucky as to come into contact with you to drop off the goods. Surrounded by a heap of your own tissues and cough drop wrappers, with only the soft and steady beep of your thermometer to comfort you, you’ll begin to wish you had taken that 20-second scrub of the palms the previous day. It would’ve saved you a whole lot of Tamiflu and regret.

So, my fellow Bulldogs, if I could urge you to do one thing this week, it’d be to run your hands under warm water and allow Softsoap to fulfill its promise to kill 99.9% of bacteria from your germ-infested fingers. The Butler Way “denies selfishness,” and in keeping with this principle, I beg of you all to just wash your hands.

As you walk from building to building, stopping for coffee and meals in between, don’t allow yourself to become one of the infected. Because in the end, when the sun sets over Hinkle and the clock tower strikes midnight, only you can save yourself. And I certainly don’t want to be caught up in the crossfire.

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