Meningitis a serious threat

Sep 212003
Authors: Leigh Pogue

Every year 100 or more college students in the United States are infected with meningococcal disease — of those 100 students, 10 to 15 will die.

“Meningitis is a rare, but serious disease,” said Lisa Duggan, immunization coordinator at the Hartshorn Health Center.

In Colorado last year, five people, ranging in age from 15 to 39, were infected.

Those infected may experience symptoms such as headaches, high fevers, a stiff neck and sometimes a rash. If not treated the person could have seizures, go into a coma and even die.

While meningitis is a very serious disease, it is also preventable. At CSU it is recommended, but not required, that freshmen receive the meningitis vaccine.

“We encourage the vaccine because number one, students living in residence halls are at a higher risk,” Duggan said.

Students who live in residence halls are more likely to contract the illness because they are living in closer contact with people, Duggan said.

Meningitis is spread by oral contact, such as sharing lip-balm and water bottles.

To increase understanding about meningitis, the health center has a program that sends letters to parents of students in the residence halls, informing them about the vaccine.

Duggan said the health center has been distributing the vaccine for the past four years with no reported serious problems or side effects. The most common side effect is soreness in the arm.

“The vaccine itself has been used for many, many years,” Duggan said. “It has been proven to be extremely safe.”

To make the vaccination more convenient, the health center is offering it to students for $80.

Students were able to get vaccinated during Preview, a summer orientation for incoming students, as well as during five clinics in September. The last clinic is Wednesday at the Sunken Lounge in the Lory Student Center from 11 a.m. to noon.

About 700 students have received the vaccination at the clinics, Duggan said.

Teresa Schmitt, a freshman biology major, received the vaccination in her hometown over the summer.

“I didn’t really want to get it,” Schmitt said. “But my mom made me because we knew a lady whose daughter got (meningitis).”

Freshman Brittany Diehl, a health and exercise science major, also did not want to get the vaccine, but she did because her mom arranged it and their insurance covered the cost.

“It wasn’t a big concern, but I’m really glad I did get it,” Diehl said. “It didn’t really hurt and it was free, and I don’t have to worry about it.”

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