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Doctors urge college students to check vaccines

Outbreaks of measles, mumps and meningitis showed up at college campuses across the country this year. Preventive medicine doctors say as students return to campus, perhaps it's time for one last trip to the family doctor.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, the U.S. has seen more measles cases in 2014 than it had over the preceding 20 years.

“Disease spreads quickly, especially the scary ones, the meningitis, measles, mumps,” said Dr. Eden Wells, a preventative medicine physician.

Doctors say these diseases are making a comeback and can spread quickly on college campuses.

“It is a different life where they may be more at risk for infection. They’re stressed out, they may be staying up late,” Wells explained. They also may be in crowded dorm rooms, she said.

“One kid gets sick, the whole dorm is sick,” said student Leah Spaulding, “and then the whole freshman class is sick. It’s seriously awful.”

Global travel and falling vaccination rates in children are driving the increase in many of these diseases. But students can be protected.

“We can actually give a vaccine that covers measles, mumps and rubella. It’s called the MMR,” Wells said.

Students should have received two doses of that vaccine when they were younger, but some missed the second dose.
Doctors say students headed to college need the meningococcal vaccine or the booster.

“No vaccine is truly 100 percent effective. We know that. But we do know if we can get a large number of people protected with a vaccine, we’re going to be less likely to have outbreaks,” Wells said.

“I don’t really want to get sick,” Spaulding said, “especially like when I’m studying, like when I have school. It’s hard to miss class.”

The best way to find out if a student is up-to-date on vaccines is to check with their family doctor. Often, the booster shot is missing. If there is no record, doctors say go ahead and vaccinate.