An annual occurrence, mono comes to campus

Many first-year students have contracted the disease

Sarah Nienaber

University of Minnesota first-year Nicole Mead has been absent from classes for about a week now âÄî not because sheâÄôs lazy, but because an illness has kept her in bed.

Mead, who has been feeling ill for some two-and-a-half weeks, was finally diagnosed with mononucleosis, more commonly known as mono, or âÄúthe kissing disease.âÄù

SheâÄôs not the only first year in the dorms whoâÄôs gotten sick.

First-year hockey players Jake Parenteau and Nick Bjugstad of Territorial Hall also have the illness, which benched them from the team.

Henry Balfour, a University pediatrics professor and expert on the sickness said symptoms include a severe sore throat, a run-down feeling, a fever and chills. Some who contract mono notice swollen and sore glands as well.

Mead, who visited Boynton Health Service early and was originally diagnosed with strep throat, did not feel better after receiving treatment. On Monday, her parents took her to another clinic where she was diagnosed with mono.

Mead has since spent her time in bed at home in Sauk Centre, Minn. She has now missed a full week of classes.

âÄú[My professors have] been very helpful,âÄù she said. âÄúThey all know it takes a long time to get over it, so theyâÄôre really helping me out and being very understanding.âÄù

Balfour said the infection can last two to three weeks.

âÄúItâÄôs longer than most acute infections,âÄù he said.

Mono can affect people in many ways. Balfour tells students to be as active as they feel they can. Some can make it to all their classes, some go to a few and skip others and, as in the case of Mead, some canâÄôt make it to class at all.

âÄúMost of the students that we deal with do kind of tough it out and do go to most of their classes,âÄù he said. âÄúIt does have a significant impact on quality of life, though.âÄù

Mead hopes she can remain enrolled at the University through all of this, but the possibility she may have to leave for the semester looms overhead.

âÄúIâÄôm hoping not,âÄù she said of having to drop out of classes, âÄúbut IâÄôm not sure how IâÄôll be feeling a couple of weeks from now.âÄù

Mead hopes she can return to classes Monday or Tuesday.

Balfour explained mono is mainly spread orally âÄî the reasoning behind its âÄúkissingâÄù nickname.

âÄúItâÄôs really a disease thatâÄôs a social disease, and itâÄôs honestly hard to avoid,âÄù he said, âÄúbut thatâÄôs how itâÄôs spread. ItâÄôs spread by sharing oral secretions and usually not by sharing pop bottles.âÄù

Cases of mono tend to spike at the University in late winter and early spring, with a definite increase in the fall, Balfour said. Because of the nature of the symptoms of the disease, though, mono often goes undiagnosed, Balfour added.

âÄúWe have not seen any kind of uptick in mono diagnoses or anything,âÄù said Boynton spokesman David Golden said. âÄúMost often it goes undiagnosed. People get sick, they get better, and theyâÄôve had mono.âÄù

Susan Stubblefield, assistant director of Housing and Residential Life, said the residence halls take precautions when it comes to the spread of sickness.

âÄúWe work very closely with Boynton Health Service,âÄù she said. âÄúAnd they, in turn, work with the Minnesota Department of Health. If there is something that could potentially be more contagious, we always work very closely with them and we then take direction from them.âÄù

Housing and Residential Life  encourages students to keep their own cleaning products in their rooms.

HRL also stresses hand-washing, Stubblefield said.

âÄúWe have really tried to promote hand-washing and the use of hand sanitizer,âÄù she said. âÄúWhen people are keeping their hands clean that tends to be the best way to promote that overall health.âÄù