College dorms are breeding grounds for disease

Going off to college for the first time can be scary for parents and their kids, and while mom and dad need to encourage them to study hard and do their best, they also need to stress hygiene and health.

That's because college dorms are a breeding ground for disease.

Even in the cleanest environment, like freshmen Christine Black's dorm room, germs can hide in all sorts of places.

Black's studying nursing. She washes her hands up to nine times throughout just an afternoon.

Stringent personal hygiene is exactly what Salt Lake Valley Epidemiologist Eileen Risk recommends because she says a lot of diseases in a dorm are spread from person to person contact, especially diseases like Mono-Nucleolus or the "kissing disease."

Risk says health experts are mainly concerned with diseases like Meningitis, which can be spread by coughing, sneezing, and sharing drinks and utensils.

Health experts are also concerned about sexually transmitted diseases.

In fact, the CDC reports 20 to 25 percent of U.S. college students are infected with STD's.

Risk added, "Anytime you have sexual contact, a condom should be used. It can prevent a lot of serious illnesses ... including HIV and AIDS. "

As college kids take advantage of their new-found freedom, they might engage in binge drinking or even deprive themselves of sleep to party or get homework done.

The University of Utah's Dr. Sankar Swaminathan says both can lower your body's ability to fight diseases. "N matter how careful you are, if your immune system is depressed, you're more likely to get sick," Swaminathan said.

The CDC says the best way to stay healthy in the dorms is to be pro-active. That means wash your hands, constantly sanitize counters and other surfaces, and get a flu shot.

For more tips, click on the Big Red Bar.

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