The Collegian
Saturday, July 04, 2020

Pink eye cases increase on campus

A recent outbreak of pink eye on campus has the University of Richmond's health center staff preaching one thing: Wash your hands.

Because pink eye, or conjunctivitis as it is formally called, is spread through a virus lurking on railings and computers throughout campus, washing hands and keeping them away from eyes is crucial in preventing the spread of the infection, said Sarah Fisher, nurse supervisor at the health center. Symptoms include redness in one or both eyes, with tearing or a thicker discharge and sometimes waking up with the eyes crusted shut.

Junior Yousef Rashid Baddoura said having pink eye during rush week had kept him from being able to read about economics and constitutional law for his classes for a few days because his eyes had been swollen shut.

One junior Westhampton woman's encounter with pink eye started when she woke up the morning of Ring Dance and couldn't open her eyes. Since she could not put in her contacts that she usually wore, she spent the night practically blind, occasionally walking up to the wrong family thinking they were her own, she said. She kept a pair of eyeglasses in her purse in case she got really lost -- which actually happened, she said.

"The next morning I was at brunch and people kept coming up to me but I had no idea who they were because I couldn't see," she said.

Pink eye is common this time of year, Fisher said. The health center typically hears from an increased number of students complaining of pink eye symptoms second semester, she said, most likely because it could be linked to the common cold, which was more prevalent during winter months.

But this year there have been more pink eye cases than normal. The disappointing truth for students is that there is not much to be done to treat the infection, Fisher said.

The cause of pink eye is viral 95 percent of the time. That means a persistent common cold could cause conjunctivitis in one eye, which will normally spread to the other eye, Fisher said. Because it is viral, antibiotics and eye drops will not make any real difference or cause a quicker recovery, which generally takes about five days.

The extremely contagious condition can be spread from touching a doorknob after someone who is infected and then touching your eye, she said. But the health center does not recommend self-isolation for students infected with pink eye and encourages them to continue attending classes.

"This is just a time to be extra careful," Fisher said. "Always wash your hands and especially if you have a cold, try not to touch your eyes."

Fisher stressed that students should visit the health center if they felt pain along with the symptoms and to be especially careful if they wore contact lenses.

Contact staff writer Brittany Brady at brittany.brady@richmond.edu

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