Scrolling Headlines:

UMass Dining app wins prestigious award -

January 24, 2017

Notebook: UMass men’s basketball coach Derek Kellogg ready to move on from Fordham loss, impressed with Rashaan Holloway’s improvement -

January 24, 2017

Creating realistic resolutions -

January 24, 2017

I love football, but injuries mar the game -

January 24, 2017

State funding restored for Amherst homeless shelter -

January 24, 2017

UMass swimming and diving pushing theme of intensity as regular season draws to a close -

January 24, 2017

UMass club hockey falls to NYU 3-2 in first game back from vacation -

January 24, 2017

Seven fashion in film moments -

January 24, 2017

The beauty of Birthright -

January 24, 2017

UMass women’s track and field victorious, men fifth at Joe Donahue Indoor Games -

January 24, 2017

UMass professor wins big on ‘Jeopardy!’ -

January 23, 2017

SGA president selects new vice president -

January 23, 2017

UMass women’s basketball blows 15 point fourth quarter lead, loses in double overtime to George Washington -

January 23, 2017

UMass club hockey falls to NYU 3-2 in first game back from vacation -

January 23, 2017

Cyr: Expectations for UMass men’s basketball remain consistent throughout 2016-17 season -

January 23, 2017

The death penalty is not the answer -

January 23, 2017

Donald Trump is gutting journalism with his Twitter -

January 23, 2017

Winter break’s most overlooked releases -

January 23, 2017

Hardly anything in ‘Rogue One’ scores a direct hit -

January 23, 2017

Nineteen turnovers sink UMass men’s basketball in loss to Fordham Saturday -

January 21, 2017

Swine flu scare

I’ve been working at UHS for over a year and a half now and have become accustomed to the building’s antibacterial soap stations, students wearing face masks into the building to avoid viruses and the colorful signs used to teach adults (yes, we’re students but we too often forget that we’re also grown adults) how to properly sneeze, cough and wash our hands. I’m waiting to close the stall door in the ladies room and see a sign labeled “How to properly use the toilet!”

The recent swine flu scare has brought our campus and its health policies to an all-new extreme. At the entrance to the dining commons, at both ends of the campus center, outside of classrooms and randomly placed all over campus, are antibacterial hand sanitizer stations. I’m starting to think that the Center for Health Promotion at UHS is simply going around duck taping them to any spot they can.

I see countless numbers of people use these sanitizing hot spots all day. But is anti-bacterial soap helping or hurting the student population? According to Everyday Health, “Residue-producing antibacterials are found in the majority of antibacterial soaps. These newer compounds break down more slowly, leaving a residue on the skin. They work more slowly to eliminate bacteria, and can allow for the development of resistant bacteria. One such residue-producing antibacterial, Triclosan, can be found in 76 percent of liquid antibacterial soaps used in the United States.”

Instead of using the bathrooms at the entrance of every dining commons to wash their hands with soap and hot water, students are taking the quick and easier option of simply putting their hands under the automatic sanitizer dispenser. The increase in the use of this antibacterial soap could very likely harm students by ridding their hands of healthy bacteria as well as unhealthy bacteria and allow resistant bacteria to take its place, which can later make antibiotics less effective.

I don’t think that antibacterial soaps are entirely useless. Antibacterial soap is easily portable, provides hygiene when water is not available and is effective at preventing the spread of infections in a health care setting – which is why it is most suited for this environment. However, in addition to creating resistant bacteria, antibacterial soap can cause dry cracking skin, increasing the risk of infection. More concerning for our students, who have the stations available at every turn, is the fact that it can (and does) give its users a false sense of security by creating a relaxed attitude towards proper hygiene.
With winter, colder temperatures and far more head colds quickly approaching, I can’t help but wonder how much the panic will increase on campus. Since the swine flu scare began back in April, the panic has been rapidly increasing. While panic isn’t necessary, proper hygiene and hand washing techniques are needed more than ever.

An August 7 report by the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology anticipates that the infection rate among the population for H1N1 (Swine flu) could possibly affect between 30 to 50 percent of the US population, causing between 30,000 and 90,000 deaths, primarily among children and young adults. This is a bit alarming when compared to influenza (the common flu) rates of infection, which are between 5 and 20 percent of the population each year, with approximately 36,000 deaths primarily in groups aged 65 and up.

In any college setting, especially one with a student body of over 20,000, it’s normal for students to come down with common colds and very often the flu. As Swine flu is significantly more concerning than the common flu, why are we turning to harmful antibacterial soaps to rid our hands of germs? It’s time for us to remember the simple hand washing techniques we learned back in grade school, and if we can’t do that, take the time to read the colorful signs placed around campus by UHS.

Ashley Lesperance is a Collegian columnist. She can be reached at aslespera@student.umass.edu.

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