Communicable Diseases

College is a defining time in most people’s lives. During this period in life, people are usually healthy, lively, free, and having the time of their lives. However, one of the downsides that come with college life is the quick transmission of communicable diseases, especially within university student housing. Below is a look at some college student diseases.

Meningococcal Meningitis

This is a very serious disease for students in college. Fortunately, it is a bit rare, affecting just about 3,000 people in the U.S. But this aspect of disease cannot overshadow the grave health implications it has on students that are unlucky enough to catch it. It can result in a shut down of major organs and blocked blood flow to the limbs, which can require amputation.

Meningococcal meningitis is a bacterial disease, and its transmission is contact-based. Basically, it can be transmitted by coming into contact with infected students or surfaces or even inhaling air that contains particles of the disease. The disease has been known to thrive among college students, primarily due to the student housing environments.

Whooping Cough (Pertussis)

This is another highly contagious bacterial disease, which is why it spreads so fast in colleges. As a matter fact, there have been notable whooping cough outbreaks in a few notable colleges lately, including Harvard University in 2012. Whooping cough can cause someone to cough for months, and so hard that ribs might even break under the strain. In student housing conditions, the disease can spread pretty fast. A single student can pass it to 15 others, especially to those whose vaccination for the disease has worn off over time. Some deaths can also occur due to pertussis.


The uninhibited social life around college often results in indiscriminate sexual activity. As a result, sexually transmitted diseases tend to spread pretty fast in college through sexual contact. Estimates indicate that up to 25% of college students carry an STD infection. Common college student STIs include herpes, Chlamydia, and gonorrhea.


Mumps is reemerging, especially in colleges. Although the vaccine was able to achieve a 98% drop in mumps, a sudden spike in the number of infections has recently occurred, 80% of which were among college students. Having an innocent conversation with an infected person can lead to infection, as well as breathing air containing droplets of the disease after an infected person coughs or sneezes. Touching infected surfaces can also lead to infection. All these factors make mumps hard to control in college environments.

Athlete’s Foot

Athlete’s foot, otherwise called tinea pedis, can be transmitted through contact with infected people and surfaces. In colleges, some students will jump into the communal showers without slippers, hence stepping onto surfaces where students already suffering from the disease have already stepped on. This can cause the infection to spread further. Another reason the disease spreads faster in college housing environments is that some students will share slippers and shoes, which can bring then into contact with the disease.


Norovirus thrives in crowded environments, which is why college housing typically offers some of the best conditions for the spread of this disease. In fact, several colleges have experienced an increase in this disease over the last couple of years. Norovirus spreads through contact with contaminated water and foods such as leafy greens and fresh fruit. The spread in colleges is so swift that some colleges have had to shut down entirely since the disease could not be controlled under college housing environments. This was mainly because the disease has no vaccine.


Although flu spreads pretty fast elsewhere as well, it spreads especially fast in college housing settings. Talking with an infected person, or breathing air that has been infected through coughs and sneezes can lead to infection. In fact, someone just needs to be within a six feet radius from an infected person to get infected. In colleges, it is practically impossible to keep a further distance from fellow students in the houses, lecture halls, libraries, or even dining halls, which makes its spread pretty thorough.


College student diseases are a serious issue. Many of the serious diseases spread through contact, which is especially an issue in college environments with their housing, communal furniture and uninhibited mingling among the students. Many of these diseases are bacterial infections, although viruses are also responsible for some major college disease outbreaks. In some cases, vaccination might be able to help, but ultimately, cautious conduct is the best way to avoid falling victim to the mass infections that these diseases are known to cause from time to time.