From mumps to chlamydia

An array of other diseases that may impact a campus
By: | Issue: February, 2015
January 26, 2015

Although flu is the most common infectious disease on college campuses, trailing not far behind it is chlamydia, one of the sexually transmitted diseases most prevalent among young adults.

To help diagnose and treat students for the disease, which can cause infertility in women, the University of Missouri in Columbia has offered free testing events for both chlamydia and gonorrhea at several locations on campus and in the community. Triggered by the CDC’s “GYT” (Get Yourself Tested) initiative, the university last fall increased the testing to twice a month.

“Those can be diseases for which you have no symptoms,” says Dr. Susan Even, executive director of the university’s Student Health Center. “That’s partly why we’re trying to encourage testing.”

Other communicable diseases that can impact college and university campuses run the gamut from mumps to measles. Last spring, the University of Wisconsin-Madison had an outbreak of mumps, with 25 cases reported on the campus—that’s compared to zero in a typical year, says Craig Roberts, epidemiologist at University Health Services.

To manage the outbreak, the university asked students who had the mumps to isolate themselves at home for five days. The school also provided information about the disease on its website and social media, and encouraged students to make sure they had received two doses of the vaccination since childhood.

Adelphi University on Long Island, New York, had two cases of chickenpox over the past two years. With each case, the health center isolated the student in a dorm room with a private bathroom that’s kept open for instances like this. After the students were no longer contagious, the university cleaned the rooms according to standard infectious disease guidelines.

Though the communicable diseases may differ, the strategy in managing them remains the same, says Jacqueline Cartabuke, Adelphi’s director of health services.

“The common thread is education, vaccination and promotion of that. That’s really what anybody can do.”