Not Your Common Cold: The 4-1-1 on 3 Major Illnesses

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Nicole Eisenberg>Sophomore>Marketing and Finance>University of Maryland, College Park

Kim Possible isn’t the only person who can get the 4-1-1.  This old 90’s Disney Channel diva stops super villains in their tracks; find your inner super hero and stop these evil illnesses from ruling your fall semester.


Mononucleosis, commonly known as “mono” or “the kissing disease,” affects mostly high school and college students in the developed world, says The New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene’s Bureau of Communicable Disease.  Spread through “person-to-person contact via saliva,” mono can easily become an epidemic in the ‘hooking up culture’ of college campuses.  What’s important is to know the signs, so that you are not spreading the virus; this would only create some very sloppy seconds.  

Gettysburg College Nurse Practitioner and Director of Health Services Fred Kinsella explains that students should be on high alert for a very sore throat that lasts longer than a week, swollen or sore neck glands, a fever around 101-102 degrees, general body aches, and immense fatigue.  He explains that if a student does not have a history of mono, the health center suspects that this is the case even more so.


Appendicitis is most common in people of ages ten to thirty, according to the National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse.  Although it is a relatively common disease, inflammation of the appendix is tricky to deal with, according to Kutztown University Assistant Director of Clinical Services, William Lenbzinski.  Just a few days ago, Lenbzinski had a student who, after being examined, did not seem to exemplify any telling symptoms of appendicitis; five hours later, the student had his appendix removed at a local hospital.  

This disease can sneak up on you, but Lenbzinski suggests looking for “rebound tenderness.”  Rebound tenderness is a pain in your “right, lower quadrant” (think below the belly button and three-fingers’ length to the right).  When you press in on the spot and release the pressure, the pain occurs once you release your hold.  Sometimes, Lenbzinski says, the rupturing of an ovarian cyst mimics appendicitis so campus health centers send female students to the hospital for radiological studies when in doubt.

Meningitis, a disease in which 15 percent of cases end fatally, is most common in the “under 5’s, the 16-25’s, and the over-55’s,” reports the Meningitis Foundation of America.  Since most college students are smack in the middle of the 16-25’s age group, it’s important to know the warning signs of this deadly disease.  

Kathy Woodward, MD, the Medical Director for the Division of Adolescent and Young Adult Medicine at Children’s National Medical Center, stresses the importance of seeking action quickly when it comes to meningitis.  She describes a common horror story in which a student might be seen at a party on a Friday night, and when people do not see him or her come out of the dorm room on Saturday morning, they don’t think anything of it.  When somebody goes to check on this student on Sunday, he or she is found expired.  

To prevent this tragic fate, students can receive the meningococcal vaccine.  Woodward explains that the vaccine is effective with three strains of the disease, and luckily, the fourth strain only accounts for ten percent of all cases.  

She explains that students should look out for a light rash that looks like broken blood vessels, a sudden and severe headache, fever, vomiting, and a stiff neck (towards the back of the neck).  Students who have these symptoms should go to the emergency room as fast as possible.  Woodward also stresses that if you have been in contact with somebody who has meningitis, start taking a three-day antibiotic to prevent your exposure to the bacteria as soon as possible.  

So what’s the sitch?  Now there is none, since you’ve got the 4-1-1 on mono, appendicitis, and meningitis.  Make sure to track down those symptoms on your college campus, so you can save your friends and yourself.

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College Magazine Staff

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