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College campuses continue to be ideal for outbreaks

Feb. 24, 2014
Recent outbreaks of measles, mumps, and meningitis at several universities demonstrate that college campuses continue to be ideal outbreak locations despite vaccination requirements.

Recent outbreaks of measles, mumps, and meningitis at several universities demonstrate that college campuses continue to be ideal outbreak locations despite vaccination requirements.

Last week the University of California at Berkeley reported that one of its students may have exposed thousands of commuters and students to measles when he rode the BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit). This week a mumps outbreak has spread to at least two Fordham University campuses.

Up to 90 percent of people who get vaccinated with MMR (mumps, measles and rubella) obtain immunity. While there is a 10 percent chance that a vaccine may be ineffective or less effective, most outbreaks spread via people who have not been vaccinated, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

An outbreak typically starts with a case from abroad—as was the case here with the Berkeley student becoming infected in Asia—and then spreads to pockets of people unvaccinated "because of philosophical of religious beliefs," CDC said in a recent report.

College campuses create ideal conditions for the spread of outbreaks because of close social conditions and living quarters. The situation can become even more dire with infections for which a vaccine is not required. For example, Princeton University spent the better part of 2013 trying to curb the spread of a strain bacterial meningitis which is not covered by routine vaccines. Even now the university is continuing with inoculations to prevent the infection from resurfacing. 

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