Aspen employee death prompts meningitis vaccine promotion |

Aspen employee death prompts meningitis vaccine promotion

EBEN HARRELLpitkin county correspondent

ASPEN – Pitkin County Health Officials said yesterday they might begin promoting meningitis-preventing vaccinations among resort employees who live in dormitory-like housing.The announcement comes after a federal advisory panel to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention declared last week that all college freshmen who live in dorms should be vaccinated for bacterial meningococcal illness, citing evidence of increased risk of the disease among young people living in close proximity. The meningococcal infection can cause meningitis, a deadly swelling of the brain.Two Colorado-based doctors who served on the CDC panel said yesterday that seasonal employee housing in resort towns such as Aspen resemble dormitory conditions and likely see increased risk of the disease.Last week, Dustin Foote, a 22-year-old seasonal employee living in Snowmass, contracted meningococcal disease and died of meningitis less than 24 hours after the onset of symptoms.Dr. Myron Levin of the University of Colorado’s Medical School, chairman of the CDC panel, said the panel stopped short of mandating vaccines for resort employees because the panel had data available only on college freshmen. While the normal risk of meningococcal disease is lower than one in 100,000 people, college freshmen have a contraction rate of more than five in 100,000.”The same thing has been asked about summer camps. In the case of resort towns, I think a prudent policy-maker – for example your county health department – might want to look at the similarities between college freshmen and resort employees and make recommendations accordingly,” Levin said.Pitkin County Director of Community Health Yvonne Hernandez and Pitkin County Medical Liaison Dr. Morris Cohen – two health officials responsible for advising Pitkin County – said they will decide in the coming weeks whether to advocate vaccinations among seasonal employees. Dense housing complexes such as Marolt Ranch and Burlingame are of particular concern.”(Vaccination) is certainly something we need to talk about. Organizations such as the Aspen Skiing Company and the Aspen Music Festival bring in a lot of young people who live in dormitory-like housing. We are certainly looking into it,” Hernandez said.”I think when the (CDC) recommendations come out, we should offer vaccines to our people living in dorm-like situations. (America) will be immunizing in college and in military barracks, so why not?” Cohen said.

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