Is your weekend making you sick?

On any given weekend, students attend parties in cramped apartments and basements. But games like beer pong and offhand sexual trysts could have greater consequences than a hangover and some regret. From sharing cups to hooking up, parties are a common place to spread germs and catch an illness. “At a party there probably two things operative — people are pretty closely packed in and also if there are activities going on where people are sharing glasses or shots [germs are spread],” Director of the Center for Health and Wellbeing Dr. Jon Porter said.In 2008, it was reported that beer pong could spread Herpes simplex 1. While, according to the Center for Disease Control, these reports were a hoax, there are still a number of diseases that can be spread at parties.”All of the things we see [at the health center] — respiratory illnesses, mono, strep throat, all the way to more serious things such as pneumonia and things — can be spread that way,” Porter said.Students recognize that the close contact with others and lack of sleep that weekends often entail can have serious health concerns.”My weekend is definitely making me sick,” sophomore Gina Galvagni said.One way that partying spreads germs is through shared cups. Sharing cups is unsanitary, and students undoubtedly know this.”[With friends] we all share the same shot glasses pretty much, but with strangers I wouldn’t,” sophomore Brittany Smith said.However, it’s easy to ignore this fact when playing popular drinking games such as beer pong.”I think students realize that there is the potential to catch something nasty from sharing a drink with another person,” sophomore resident advisor Hannah Hinsley, who created a bulletin board about beer pong and germs in her hall, said. “However, it’s another thing to have the path of the pong ball described — from the floor with all the dirt and shoes to people’s hands that haven’t been washed.”Furthermore, when students go out, germs are not usually a top concern.”Worry [about getting sick] when I go out? No,” Galvagni said. “Do I think about it after? Yes.”Hookups are another way that illness can spread in social situations.”Taking precautions to make sexual contact safe [is important] — being familiar with the people you’re with,” Porter said.If you don’t know the name of that random kid that you fooled around with last weekend, you probably don’t know whether or not he had anything from strep throat to syphilis.It is estimated that one in four college students has a sexually transmitted disease, according to Stanford University’s Sexual Health Resource Center.”College campuses notoriously have populations of individuals that engage in lots of sexual activity and high-risk behavior. When you put those together, it’s not surprising that these [high] statistics [of STDs] are present in the population,” President of the Sexual Health Awareness Group at Cornell University Zoe Belkin, in a 2008 article from The Cornell Daily Sun, said.Between these multiple ways of swapping spit, germs are spread and many people do get sick.There is a noticeable trend of people coming into the health center after nights out, Porter said.”On weekends we see the fallout from when students aren’t able to keep their judgment as good as it can be,” Porter said. “It’s part of the landscape here on Saturdays, Sundays and Mondays.”Students see the fallout as well.”One of my friends has gotten sick three of three weekends [from] going out,” Galvagni said. “She’s sick by Tuesday every week.”However, not all students agree that going out assuredly leads to sickness.”They have a better chance [of getting sick,] but I don’t think they get sick just from going out — unless you count a hangover as sick,” Smith said.Students will surely continue to go out despite the health risks. However, some precautions can be taken.Hinsley’s board offered practical advice for the health threats of beer pong.”Don’t play beer pong — I feel like that’s an obvious solution,” Hinsley said. “[If you are going to play], don’t share cups and don’t drink anything that’s come in contact with the ball … just think about where that thing’s been,” she said.Dr. Porter offered some more general suggestions.”I do think it’s a fact of life, the germs are around, they are opportunistic,” Porter said. “It doesn’t mean we don’t go [out] in social situations,” he said. “We just keep our judgment clear.”