Though quite rare, meningitis infections are deadly in 10-12% of cases and disfiguring or disabling in many others, and are easily passed among persons in close contact like college freshmen living in dormitories.
Early symptoms of meningitis resemble those normally associated with flu: headache, upset stomach, vomiting. But the disease can quickly progress to organ failure, brain damage, blindness and deafness, and other serious complications, and can even cause death in just a few hours. Limb amputations are often required to remove tissue damaged by the infection. Spread through droplets in the air, direct physical contact with an infected person, or by sharing personal items like drinks or cigarettes with someone who's harboring the bacteria, college dorm residents are particularly vulnerable.
A vaccine exists that is 83% effective against nearly all strains of the bacteria, and pressure is building to pass laws mandating the vaccination.
From a recent article on the MSNBC Web site:
“It’s a safe vaccination, it’s an effective vaccination, and it’s one of those terrible, terrible risks — albeit extremely rare — that you can really minimize by spending money on the vaccine,” says Turner, who is also the chair of the Vaccines Preventable Diseases Committee for the American College Health Association. The vaccine is generally covered by insurance and costs around $120 on most college campuses.”
Meningococcal meningitis can be a terrible ordeal under the best of circumstances, and could easily cost an unsuspecting college student his or her young life. Though unlikely to effect more than a small number of people across the country, anyone heading off to college, especially freshmen planning to live in the dorms, should strongly consider immunizing themselves against this horrible but preventable disease.
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