The Hidden Dangers of Spring Break

Spring break is quickly approach­ing, which means that many college students will be travelling to warmer climates for leisure and fun in the sun. Spring break is likened to a rite of pas­sage into adulthood for college stu­dents—partying, socializing, and going to different events… the fun never seems to end. But sometimes things can turn deadly when drinking, driv­ing, and other hazards get involved.

The most concerning activity that students partake in during spring break is binge drinking. One study conduct­ed by the American College of Health found that the average male reported drinking 18 drinks per day, and the average female reported up to 10 drinks per day during spring break. These are both well above the humanly tolerable levels of alcohol consumption. The U.S. Government recommends one to two drinks per day. Binge drinking is the practice of five or more drinks in about two hours (for men) and four or more drinks in the same period for women.

Paired with the alcohol problem is the driving hazard. Michael T. French, professor of health economics at the University of Miami, states, “We found that between the last week of February and the first week of April, a signifi­cantly greater number of traffic fatali­ties occurred in spring break hot spots compared to other locations in the same states and at other times of the year.”

If you neither drink nor drive, there is still room for concern. You can now add the Zika virus to the list of poten­tial dangers for college students to look out for during their spring break. Ac­cording to the latest booking and sur­vey data from cheaptickets.com, 55% of college students are planning to travel for spring break this year, with Las Vegas, Cancun, and Punta Cana topping the list of the hottest destina­tions. Spring breakers are also flocking to Florida, as the state’s beaches oc­cupy five of the top 15 most popular spots. These hot spots are prime real estate for Zika virus-carrying mosqui­toes who thrive in warmer climates.

The Zika virus is spread to people most frequently through mosquitoes, but can also be contracted via blood or sexual contact. The symptoms of Zika virus include fever, rash, joint pain, and redness in the eyes. The illness is usu­ally mild with symptoms lasting from several days to a week. Severe infection requiring hospitalization is uncom­mon. However, a recent report showed that the disease was linked to compli­cated pregnancies and birth defects in infants.

A recent report released by the Cen­ter for Disease Control states that “pri­or to 2015, Zika virus outbreaks have occurred in areas of Africa, Southeast Asia, and the Pacific Islands.” In light of this information, the CDC has issued notices for people traveling to areas where Zika virus transmission is ongo­ing. Puerto Rico, another spring break hot spot, declared a state of emergency about a week ago after 22 people were reported to have contracted the virus.

Spring break is in a few short weeks and most of us have already planned our getaway vacations. And, as much fun as it is to go to tropical places and experience an exciting rite of passage into adulthood, it’s much better to live a long life and be able to share those memories with our friends. The Center for Disease Control recommends talking to your doctor before going to any countries that have reported cases of the Zika virus, and I recommend the same.