There it is: we have found a way to make hundreds of loud and rude college students inoffensive. It is not the most elegant way but it is efficient. An epidemic.
It started at the beginning of the week. You ate somewhere, you touched something and before you knew, you had it. You felt nauseated and after a couple of hours you received an email from the university:
"The George Washington University Student Health Service is currently seeing an increased number of students with gastrointestinal symptoms, most likely of a viral origin.”
“No. No. NOOO” is your first reaction. Now that you are facing the truth, you have to tell your friends you won’t be able to brunch with them tomorrow.
You continue reading the email:
“While symptoms can be uncomfortable, gastrointestinal illness is usually not serious and most people get better in one to two days. There is no drug treatment or vaccine for gastrointestinal illness.”
Well, this is the polite equivalent of: “Don’t bother coming to see us. There is no cure. And we don’t want to get sick too”. Never mind, you are brave, you will bare the consequences of touching door handles irresponsibly. You will just go to sleep and hope you will not die in painful circumstances.
Wait. The email is not over:
"The university is working with the DC Department of Health and is currently awaiting the outcome of testing to determine the cause of the infections. The university is also working to identify any commonalities in the cases at GW. No single commonality has been identified to date."
Are we talking about the plague? I am not even sure we have health service at my home university so an investigation about the causes of the epidemic seems a little bit disproportionate. If we think about it for a second, they are basically hiring people to find the cause of a disease that is not serious and for which there is no cure anyway.
They finally found the origin of the epidemic: it is a norovirus. That doesn’t help us much, but it is way more elegant than saying that you have gastrointestinal symptoms. Yet, during the next few days, you still see one friend after another being trapped in his or her room, like soldiers dying on the battlefield.
There are two possible scenarios now:
1) People will get better, fewer and fewer will get sick and life will be happy and healthy again.
2) This is the beginning of the end of the world foreseen in 2012.
Right now, it's 50-50 given that every office at GW has turned paranoiac and is cleaning every inch touched by a student. But let's not be pessimistic, if we survived the bird flu, we will probably survive the norovirus.