Students compete for elite norovirus

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Humor Columnist Jess Miller reports on the norovirus sensation that is sweeping Grounds.

Riley Walsh | Cavalier Daily

WEDNESDAY - On Tuesday, Jan. 29th, an email from Dr. Christopher Holstege, the executive director of the Department of Student Health and Wellness, was sent to all University students announcing that “cases of norovirus have been confirmed in the U.Va. student population.” Though no definitive number was provided in the email, it is assumed that only a few cases of norovirus have been reported, making the chance of contracting the painful disease a contentious honor. Despite assurance that the virus is “highly contagious,” students across Grounds are still competing passionately for the coveted distinction of “vomiting, diarrhea, nausea and/or stomach pain.”

It’s not every day that a chance like this comes around. Only the elite of Mr. Jefferson’s university understand that contraction of the rare and heinous norovirus takes its place with some of the greatest honors awarded at U.Va. and throughout academia — the Rhodes Scholarship, the MacArthur Genius Grant, membership in the Jefferson Literary and Debating Society — all practically pale in comparison with the “potential for fever, headache and body aches” offered by the prestigious norovirus.

As with any selective honor, competition for norovirus is stiff. Fortunately for the student candidates, Tuesday’s email also provided a helpful list of tips for contracting the disease. According to the email, “The virus can spread by:

-Eating foods or drinking liquids that are contaminated with norovirus,

-Touching surfaces or objects contaminated with norovirus then putting your fingers in your mouth, or

-Having direct contact with someone who is infected with norovirus, such as by caring for them or sharing food or utensils with them.”

Of course, these recommendations are easier said than done. In light of Holstege’s suggestions, some students have cited favoritism, attacking the entire application process for the clear advantage or rather the apparent necessity, which pre-existing connections afford to applicants.

“It just seems like it’s only about who you know,” said one hopeful. “It’s like you have to know someone who already has the norovirus to get it. It doesn’t seem fair to perfectly healthy candidates who should have just as much of a chance of contracting norovirus as anyone else.”

Another student called the process and particularly the potential influence of favoritism “ridiculous,” but “typical of U.Va. awards.” 

“It’s all politics. Just a popularity contest,” the student said. “It’s just the same group of NOVA people who all know each other, and all have connections. I bet their daddies probably pulled strings just to get them sick. What if I want to get norovirus? I’m just a regular out-of-state kid. It just doesn’t feel right.”

Aside from this potentially-problematic list of DO’s, Dr. Holstege also provided some important DON’T’s — habits which prevent contracting the virus for all would-be sick students to avoid. These include “wash your hands …  with soap and water,” and “get adequate sleep and eat well-balanced meals.” That many students already consistently avoid these practices could spell success or failure for several candidates in the struggle to stand out and appear unique. 

The email recommends that any students exhibiting symptoms of norovirus stay home, lest they provide an unfair advantage to their fellow candidates. It is currently unclear how many cases will be seen. In any event, based on current numbers, the applicant pool promises to be one of the largest in U.Va. history.

Diagnoses of norovirus are being awarded by the Department of Student Health & Wellness, and the application is currently open. 

Jess Miller is a Humor Columnist for The Cavalier Daily. He can be reached at humor@cavalierdaily.com.

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