By Matt Demers
People are afraid.
They are afraid of epidemics, pandemics, outbreaks and all that’s in between. In 2003 it was severe acute respiratory syndrome, also known as SARS. Now it’s H1N1, also known as swine flu.
These diseases are so scary, we don’t even know what to call them.
In an attempt to stop the spread of SARS. people were told to wear masks, use anti-bacterial soap and be aware of people who were coughing. It was like an obstacle course in day-to-day life.
For H1N1, the games have been heightened. The Glen Cove public school district in Long Island, New York banned all forms of skin-onskin touching in order to curb the transmission of H1N1 virus.
Most people don’t consider a handshake harmful; it’s pure business – introduce yourself, firm grip, three shakes, release. It’s the same thing with a hug; an embrace is shared and you let go. However, with society’s increased attention to disease, this type of gesture may be pushing it.
To some students, a ban that prohibits skin contact is overreacting.
“I think it’s bull shit,” said Sarah Robinson, a second-year journalism student. “Swine flu’s going to spread either way. If you’re going to outlaw hugging, you might as well outlaw breathing in the same space.”
In response to this policy and others like it, The Eyeopener decided to go on a safari, determined to find out exactly how much potential diseasespreading goes on throughout campus. By watching students in front of the Library building, it was clear that the hugs, handshakes and high-fives were were not in decline.
Some subjects were surprised that their regular greetings could be dangerous and have actually been banned in other schools. “Honestly, I don’t even think about it,” said Mike Cortes, fashion student. “Even in the subway, I see people sneezing [without covering] and I don’t even react. It’s normal.
” Dr. Su-Ting Teo, Ryerson’s Director of Student Health and Wellness, said that practices like social distancing, while extreme at the moment, may become necessary in the future.
“If the numbers and severity [of the disease] changes significantly, then it’s going to go beyond your normal flu season precautions,” said Teo.
As winter turns its ugly head in our direction, we can only hope that this crazy flu doesn’t continue to spread. But will I stop shaking hands, giving hugs and high-fiving? Hell no.