With Swine Flu continuing to plague the nation, the rising number of cases on crowded, concentrated colleges campuses has prompted some schools to restrict parties and other social activities, a step USC health officials say they won’t consider.
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in upstate New York made headlines recently with their aggressive approach to H1N1. In a standard weekly email, RPI’s Health Director Dr. Leslie Lawrence urged students to avoid drinking games.
RPI is not the first school to recognize the dangers of drinking games and drink sharing. In September, Cornell University banned fraternity parties for a brief period because of a growing number of H1N1 cases. Other schools have taken similar steps.
But Dr. Lawrence Neinstein, executive director of the University Park Health Center, said USC would not take any similar precautions.
Neinstein recognized the connection between sharing drinks and Swine Flu. He said the number of Swine Flu cases on campus was highest at the start of the semester, a fact he credits to the partying that accompanies rush and other crowded social gatherings.
Yet, Neinstein said, parties are not the only way H1N1 spreads.
Sharing liquids is “one of 50 things that are public health related,” Neinstein said. “Why do you choose one? I don’t think that it’s enforceable. You need to get people to know and take personal responsibility for their health.”
Still, students said they think USC should consider issuing a warning specific to parties and drinking games.
“It is important for USC to try and support a healthy and safe community,” said Will Obre, a junior majoring in public relations. “It is especially important to promote smart health decisions in one of the biggest Greek communities on the west coast. So, I believe that USC should issue a similar warning [to RPI’s] to the entire campus.”
Should the number of cases rise to an unmanageable level USC would alter its course of action accordingly, Neinstein said.
“There are potential actions that could be done at that secondary higher level, but no one’s saying that we’re even close to that,” Neinstein said. “Suppressing beer games when you’ve got that kind of level is not where you’d need to look at. You’d have to look at social events, athletic events, concerts, teaching methods, and more.”
Ultimately, Neinstein said the best way to see the greatest possible reduction in Swine Flu among college students is for students to get vaccinated with the newly released flu shot. USC students can be vaccinated free of charge at the Lyon Center on November 3 and 4.