With the United States facing its worst flu season in a decade, reminders to keep sickness at home and cover one’s face during coughing or sneezing fits are dominating campus bulletin boards, social media blasts, and even daily conversation. However, it seems that junior Eric Stevens has missed the memo.
According to his classmates in Biology II, Stevens first showed flu symptoms over two weeks ago. What began as light coughs and sniffles have mutated into hacking reminiscent of whooping cough and sneezes with a 36-inch radius splash zone. Students in the course report open – flamboyant, even – coughing and sneezing without any remorse. No classmate could recall an instance of Stevens covering a sneeze, apologizing for sneezing, or even responding to the chorus of “bless you”s that followed.
“People are dying from this,” says classmate Rachel Parkinson, who used to sit adjacent to Stevens before employing the self-preservation tactic of sitting in the absolute farthest back corner. “Like, thousands of people have died. And he doesn’t even cough in his hand or shirt or elbow or anything. Can I sue him or something if I get sick?”
The once-weekly, three-hour section of the course takes place in the Mathematical Sciences Building; however, Stevens’ peers and local virology experts have warned that even 30 minutes in the same room as him can be a health hazard in the poorly ventilated building. Though the class remains overcrowded, a circle of vacant desks has appeared around Stevens, with the absent students being either hospitalized or okay with failing the attendance grade. One notable exception is George Beris, who continues to sit beside Stevens because his immune system is “like, really good” and he “[hasn’t] gotten sick since tenth grade.”
The small amount of effort it would take Stevens to prevent the spread of the highly lethal disease is infuriating to many of his peers; however, he struggles to find validity in their outrage.
“I mean, I took an Emergen-C, I’m probably not contagious anymore,” said Stevens, still audibly congested and visibly exhausted. “It’s probably just my allergies. Pollen season and stuff.”
The course professor, who was previously oblivious to both Stevens’ sickness and his students’ concern, said that no make-up exams would be offered to Stevens or those infected by him, as they had likely all “received that devil’s flu vaccine and diseased themselves.” The professor went on to praise homeopathy and recommend essential oils to any student who was worried about falling ill.