The Daily Tar Heel
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The Daily Tar Heel

In the quaint little town of Chapel Hill, nestled in the bucolic milieu, is a population of millions that are oft neglected, or at least until they cause a commotion.

They roam freely in the lounges, the bathrooms, the classrooms, the dining halls — they are everywhere. They don’t pay tuition or taxes or dues of any sort. Their only contribution to society is the misery they evoke. They are everyone’s enemy, regardless of race, class or social status.

They are oh-so sick nasty germs.

It doesn’t take a biology major to see that college is a festering cesspool — a susceptible immune system’s worst nightmare.

When I visit the computer lab and feel the revolting slick from filthy fingers on the keyboards, I wonder if a world without such sanitary hazards is possible.

Though a sense of community warms the heart and feeds the soul, it also successfully turns doorknobs, keyboards, sink handles, chairs, pencils, toilet flushes, railings and even high fives into incubators of yuckiness.

Colleges (and especially dorm rooms) are known for being dirtier than the average environment in this country because they are high-traffic areas occupied by students who don’t have their moms to clean up after them. It’s especially true for students living in a dorm environment for the first time.

The number of germs in our ranks is as many as would be expected in a human population of this density. The image of a scruffy college student roughing it out has created an especially dirty perception. With college brings a rather overwhelming fear of germs.

I would not have a problem with germs if they didn’t pose the threat of getting me sick before finals. What makes everything worse for us as students is that stress makes humans more prone to disease and exacerbates illness. And what an unfortunate coincidence that exam week comes during flu season.

As a freshman, I’ve heard rumors of the H1N1 virus that faced the school, of quarantines and solitary confinement. Though the swine has ceased to be a threat, we must be more vigilant than ever this season.

Although some say germs make immune systems stronger, by putting yourself at risk you endanger those around you as well. Those cheesy signs in public bathrooms have a point; 20 seconds of hand washing can prevent 200 diseases, but only two-thirds of people actually wash their hands after using the bathroom.

But bathrooms are the least of the danger: On average, desks have 50 times more bacteria than a toilet seat. Now just think about everything else you, along with 20,000 other students, touch on a daily basis. The only reason I could understand for not washing hands is the desire to conserve water. This is what hand sanitizer is for. If only the hand sanitizing stations actually had anything in them.

Although death by germs is preferable to death by final exams, I sincerely hope to be healthy during my first finals week in college. The only contagion I want to catch from my peers is laughter.

Together, we can stay clean and healthy and have one less excuse for any bad performance during that fateful week.

Saffa Khan is a freshman undecided major from Chapel Hill. E-mail her at

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