Whenever you throng children – or teenagers, or young adults – together, there is an opportunity for some of the more contagious childhood diseases to take advantage of those who are vulnerable. That was true in the First World War, where the lives of barracks and troop ship transportation contributed to the deadly spread of 1918 influenza, which, unlike most flu, was more deadly for healthy young people than older people.
Many universities require a special list of immunizations before students move to the dormitory, including the meningococcal vaccine to prevent bacterial meningitis. But the measles-mumps-rubella vaccine is always at the top of the list. That's because measles is so contagious that if it is immune to flock – when a high percentage of the population is protected by immunization – down even a few percent, the measles virus can take full advantage.
"The first thing you see is a gap in your public health system," Dr. Ratner, will become an infection like this, "measles, transmitted through the respiratory route and is good at moving from vulnerable people to vulnerable people."
When my own daughter went to college, someone looked carefully at the immunization record, always received without question at her school, and found that her first MMR had been given several months before her first birthday, and therefore was not counted; he had to get another dose before he took up residence in his dorm room.
I had asked for the initial MMR, because we would take him to travel to a country where there was still, at that time, the danger of exposure to measles (no, not Brooklyn). You can give MMR as early as 6 months if a child is at risk of exposure to measles, and it provides protection, but you have to repeat the shot after the child is 1. I forgot to do it, and no one has ever noticed. As a pediatrician's mother with an incomplete vaccine record, I was a little embarrassed, but most were impressed.
Dr. Stimson went on to note that World War I soldiers who grew up in more isolated circumstances, usually in the countryside, tended not to be immune to childhood diseases, and "when thousands of rural youths first gathered in army camps, infectious diseases tended to be very common , "He said. This was also noted in the American Civil War, when measles was a very destructive disease, and the recruits who came from the farm were very vulnerable.
The young people of 1918 will experience a terrible danger (Dr. Stimson himself was wounded in action in Flanders, serving with British troops) but they are also in danger because they are exposed to viruses and bacteria to each other.