Campus Life | The Pitt Plague

Campus Life is a biweekly blog about the everyday things happening around Pitt’s campus.

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By Shriya Yadamreddi, For The Pitt News

As Pitt students return to in-person classes, many are slowly starting to catch some type of sickness, which some students have unofficially named “The Pitt Plague.” Many thought they had caught COVID-19, but after they got tested and came back with a negative result, they were shocked and confused.

I have heard from several of my friends how first-year college students tend to get sick because they are adjusting to the new environment. Hearing this, I was expecting myself to come down with a terrible cold my first year at Pitt, but was very confused when that did not happen. I realized that might be because we had online classes and did not go out as much because COVID-19 cases were high.

After talking to some of my friends, one said how they’ve had a sore throat and a bad cough for a week and how they got tested for COVID-19. They were expecting a positive result, but it came back negative which was a shock to them since their symptoms were very similar to those of COVID-19. I went through the same thing a week ago — I had a terrible cough and was very congested. I also decided to get tested for COVID-19 and after getting my negative result back, I realized that since I have recently been exposed to more people because of in-person classes, that meant more germs, so it made sense why I got sick.

According to Pitt’s COVID-19 Medical Response Office, 95% of undergraduate students have submitted proof of vaccination. Even though most students, faculty and staff are vaccinated, Pitt still requires anyone inside a campus building to wear a mask, so they can assure the safety of everyone. But I have still noticed students not wearing masks in buildings when there are no faculty present, thinking they can easily get away with it. They are forgetting that they could be spreading other germs to people, causing them to get sick.

A friend of mine mentioned how professors are starting to tell students not to come to class if they are feeling sick for the safety of themselves and others, so some students in her classes are taking advantage and not attending in person. I overheard some students talk about how when they want to skip class, they just email their professor saying they have a bad cough or are getting tested for COVID-19.

After talking with some of my classmates, some are wondering what the cause of this University-wide sickness could be, and the answer might not be as serious as we think.

Most first-year students get sick in their first semester of college, but since social distancing and mask mandates led to a flu season with unusually low activity last year, current sophomores like myself probably got off easy with minimal sickness. As a result, they’re not used to taking care of themselves yet and this makes them unprepared for the current sickness going around. Furthermore, since lots of students are not used to living in a dorm or with another person in such a small space, their bodies aren’t used to this new environment.

First-year students are still getting their first taste of freedom from being away from their parents. They might not have the healthiest diet or the best sleep schedule because no one is there to constantly check up on them. Both of these things can affect people in negative ways, and certain viruses spread more easily than others. Students are also exposed to new germs from other people and can possibly lack good hygiene since they’re always in a rush for classes.

Along with returning back to in-person classes, I have noticed that students’ eating habits have also been poor since they are very busy. A peer that is interested in nutrition noted how a lot of students just eat two meals a day and a few quick, unhealthy snacks in between classes, which is not good for the immune system at all. This change of routine in eating can impact someone mentally and physically, causing them to feel anxious and get sick.

Students are also starting to raise concerns about upcoming University events and how crowded the campus will get. A friend of mine was saying how she hopes people do not go out as much this week, especially with more in-person football games coming up and people being sick. She does not want to risk getting her parents and sister sick. I’ve heard some of my professors talking to students saying they hope people feel better so they can start coming to class again.

Moving away to college for the first time can have unforeseen complications, and this is new territory for current first-years and sophomores who spent their first year attending classes virtually. But with proper care, students can avoid catching illness — whether it’s COVID-19 or the Pitt Plague.

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