Be considerate to sick classmates

For good reason, no one wants to get sick, especially in a time when a “national pandemic” such as H1N1 is affecting thousands of college students across the United States.

Thus this morning when I woke up with a bad headache, a strong cough and a flushed face, the words “swine flu” were the first to pop into my head.

After a call to the Stamps Health Services Center and waiting for the fever to break, it was simple to ascertain that it was nothing more than a bad cold.

However, at that point, the damage had been done. My strained, groggy voice and disheveled appearance was enough to signal the immediate label “SICK” like it was stamped across directly against my forehead.

From then on out, my day became a pattern of anxious glares and self defenses every time I coughed.

Each mention of “I’m sick” caused people to dart away, followed by my own swift yell of “I don’t have swine flu. It’s just a cold!” The feeling was horrendous. Just because someone has a cough doesn’t mean you have to run from her as though she has the black plague.

For victims with only the common cold or even sinus problems, it’s been a hard time to get better when consistently being classified as someone with H1N1. One of my friends who has a respiratory problem got pulled out and asked to leave class for fear of swine flu.

Even for those with swine flu, people around them should be treating them with the same consideration as normal, instead of reducing the ill to the topic of silly gossip stories .

I’ve heard countless gossipy asides like, “Did you hear a whole floor of Delta Delta Delta’s have swine flu after going out on Saturday night?” It’s hard enough to be sick, whether it’s an allergic reaction or the flu.

Being treated like a walking and talking hazardous material feels even worse and definitely does not make the situation better.

In the worst case of poor H1N1-related manners I’ve heard, a girl in a blue mask is riding down 5th Street in a golf cart driven by the Health Services Center to Tech Square. Just as she passes by the baseball stadium, a baseball player exiting sees her. At the sight, he points and yells, “SWINE FLU!”

The street, which is already filled with people walking to class, goes silent as its pedestrians stare wide-eyed at the golf cart passing by. Imagine how that girl felt being isolated in a crowd of people, and being treated like a circus freak just because of one silly mask and one silly virus that is no worse than the common flu.

Although I recognize the value of keeping healthy by staying away, doing so to the extent of treating the ill person like a zoo animal is taking precaution too far. It makes sense that no one wants to get sick.

In any case, it is the third week of school, and Tech classes are hard enough. However, precaution should not mean a complete lack of respect and good manners.

Common courtesy and consideration should still be extended in any case. After all, this is Georgia Tech, not the Salem Witch Hunt.

According to the New York Times, about 60 to 120 million people are projected to have symptoms of the swine flu in the United States alone. Even so, those with mild symptoms (such as all the cases at Tech thus far) are predicted to have a full recovery after a couple days.

This is said not to belittle the problem of swine flu, but to allay concerns and jokes. Taking care of oneself by using hand sanitizer, taking vitamin C and keeping healthy is of the utmost importance at this time. Rather, it is to show that we are no different, sick or not sick.

I’ll be the first to admit that I have joked and teased friends who have or had swine flu. However, now from the other side, I realize that these jokes are terribly immature, and reduce the morale of even those without H1N1.

Truly, if it were the tormenters who were afflicted by swine flu or any other kind of sickness, they would not necessarily appreciate being the subject of H1N1 jokes.

After all, with 50% of Tech’s student population being projected to have or have had swine flu by October, karma can come back and give anyone a taste of the swine flu.