Risking the herd

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Risking the herd

Contagious diseases on the rise in La Plata County, and vaccination naysayers may be compounding the problem

Risking the herd

Fort Lewis College takes immunizations seriously

Unlike Durango’s public schools, where a significant number of parents refuses to vaccinate their children for philosophical reasons, Fort Lewis College has nearly a 100 percent vaccination rate.
FLC spokesman Mitch Davis said the college achieved herd immunity in 2013: 3,974 students – 99.4 percent of the student body – immunized.
“We live and work in close proximity, something that can be said of most colleges and universities, so these kinds of issues are something that all institutions should be on the lookout for,” Davis said in an email.
Last year at Princeton University, a meningitis outbreak landed eight people in the hospital. According to The Daily Princetonian, university officials launched an information campaign. Posters advised students to avoid swapping saliva – by inadvertently sipping from someone else’s drink, for instance, and even through popular purposeful activities like kissing.
Davis said FLC employs similar strategies every flu season.
“We’ll send out healthy habits emails with tips like covering your mouth when you cough and washing your hands, along with hanging posters with similar messages,” he said. “The Health Center also offers flu shots and even services like immunizations and HIV testing. We also have a Student Wellness program that does work in a broad range of health areas.”
Davis said FLC had to be vigilant.
“We have students enrolled from 17 different countries, in addition to FLC students who travel abroad to places like Central and South America, Africa, Europe, the Middle East and Asia,” he said.
In the past, FLC has seen its share of terrifying diseases.
“We had a number of H1N1 cases back in 2009 when that flu hit hard,” he said. “ ... Our biggest incident was the measles in 1988. All told, we had about 80 students become infected. The measles incident lasted a couple of months.”
cmcallister@durangoherald.com

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