Feb 202003
Authors: Stephanie Lindberg

According to the Centers for Disease Control, each year 100 to 125 college-aged students will contract a potentially deadly disease known as meningococcal disease. Of those students, 10 to 15 percent will die.

Meningococcal disease, commonly called meningitis, is a bacterial infection that causes an inflammation of the membranes surrounding the brain and spinal cord.

Once the bacteria begins to infect the bloodstream, it can cause kidney and heart failure, loss of limbs, coma, and even death. If not treated promptly, meningitis will progress quickly and could cause death just a few hours after the appearance of symptoms.

One problem with diagnosis of the bacterial infection is the presence of flu-like symptoms, said Lisa Duggan, a nurse at the Hartshorn Health Center at CSU.

“It’s not a very common disease,” Duggan said. “The scary thing is it can progress rather rapidly.”

A case study done in 1999 by the CDC showed a disproportionate number of young adults ages 15 to 25 contracting the disease.

“Students are at a higher risk because they share things, such as utensils,” Duggan said.

Other factors that are considered to raise the risk of getting meningitis include irregular sleeping habits and excessive smoking and drinking, all of which impair the immune system.

The CDC reports that freshmen living in university housing are six times as likely as other students to become sick with the disease.

Many states are now requiring universities to have students vaccinated against meningitis. Arkansas was the first state to require all freshmen living on campus to have the vaccination.

Colorado currently has no laws requiring either education on the disease or the vaccination, but Florida passed a bill in January that will do just that.

Florida State University was blocking spring registration for students who had not been vaccinated or signed a waver, said Lesley Sacher, the director of FSU’s student health center, in an e-mail interview.

“The bill only requires freshmen living in University owned housing to receive the vaccine or hard waiver out,” Sachler said.

On Feb. 11, a 23-year-old FSU student who did not live on campus, died of the disease.

“So many parents and students complained bitterly that we were making them do an unnecessary, needless step,” Sachler said. “They’ve not called to complain this week.”

The Hartshorn Health Center has been promoting awareness of the disease with a new program created in 2000, Duggan said. She said many freshmen get the vaccination either in the programs in the residence halls or before they come to school.

“Our job on campus is to make the vaccination available and make sure (the students) know about the disease,” Duggan said.

Paul Banagas, a sophomore graphic design student, said he got the vaccination when he lived in the residence halls and thinks the awareness program is a good thing.

“People should be aware of the diseases they could have,” Banagas said.

Students at CSU can get the vaccination at the health center for about $80, Duggan said.

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