College drinking games are latest swine flu victim
Many colleges might warn students about drinking games like beer pong over fears of alcohol poisoning or drunk driving — but swine flu?
After one upstate college cautioned students that sharing cups during the popular frat house game can spread the virus, many are now focused on the unique challenges that campus life poses for the spread of the virus.
“College students will frequently socialize in large groups in places that are poorly ventilated: Bars, apartments, fraternity and sorority houses,” said Jim Turner, president of the American College Health Association. “I would advise not sharing hookah pipes, not sharing marijuana pipes, not sharing cigarettes, not kissing lots of people.”
A recent outbreak at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy was traced to a game of beer pong, prompting the administration to send out a e-mail warning that included the debunking of a campus rumor about how alcohol protects against flu.
“Alcohol does not kill the virus or prevent its spread from person to person,” said the message, which was also posted on the school’s Web site. “While it might seem fun over the weekend, it will not be enjoyable when you and your friends are sick and missing class or midterm examinations.”
Turner and others say the way students live – close together in dorms, often indoors and packed into large classrooms – makes them particularly susceptible.
It comes on the heels of a ban by the Diocese of Brooklyn on passing the wine cup during Communion for the rest of the flu season. Church officials have also cautioned parishioners with colds about shaking hands during the “sign of peace” greeting.
At NYU, where college officials said there have been a number of suspected swine flu cases, some students are already changing their behavior.
“I’ve started carrying around a small bottle of hand sanitizer,” said Benjamin Cohen, 20, a junior.
Another student, senior Patty Chao, 21, said she that while she still plays beer pong, she’s mindful of the risks. “I think about it for a second before drinking out of the cup,” she said.
So far, the city has not seen a major resurgence of the virus, which experts estimate infected up to 1 million people in the spring. In New York state, college campuses have seen 14 cases per 100,000, below the national average of 19, according to Turner’s organization.
Bob Howe, a spokesman for Fordham University, said the school has had “a handful of cases” and has guidelines for isolating sick students. Like NYU, Fordham is already offering seasonal flu vaccine and will begin inoculating against swine flu once it gets the vaccine.Courtney Crowder contributed to this story.