While college kids are busy decorating dorms, reviewing class schedules and meeting new roommates, they shouldn’t forget to make sure all their immunizations are up-to-date as they enter those hallowed halls of higher learning. Even though most vaccinations are given in early childhood or early adolescence, college students and young adults need specific immunizations, too. According to the Texas Department of State Health Services, all incoming first-time or transfer students (21 years or younger) are required by law to receive a meningococcal vaccination (or booster, if it has been longer than five years) at least 10 days prior to the first day of class (or 10 days prior to moving into campus housing). Students also are expected to have completed their primary series of childhood immunizations. “It is extremely important that college students are current on their vaccinations. Prevention beats intervention any day, in my book.” says registered nurse Debbie Rosenberger, coordinator of health services for the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor. She highly recommends college students receive hepatitis A and HPV series vaccines, and a seasonal flu shot. A supplemental meningitis vaccine that provides additional protection (MenB) also is available and can be discussed with a health care provider. “Students live in close quarters and crowded living conditions, and it’s very common for them to share bathrooms, showers, drinks and even towels. At this age — middle school through college — kids are likely to invade others’ personal space/belongings more than any other time in their lives. Kids hear their mom’s voice saying, ‘wash your hands, before eating or after using the restroom,’ but they don’t always comply.” Moving to a 5,000-plus student-body campus is like moving to a new community. Unlike friends you’ve gone to school with your entire life, you will now be encountering thousands of new people you never met before. It’s like going on a cruise ship with hundreds of strangers and their germs. According to the National Meningitis Association, approximately 600-1,000 people contract meningococcal disease in the U.S. each year. Twenty-one percent of these cases occur in preteens, teens and young adults ages 11-24. About one in 10 people carry meningococcal bacteria in their nose or throat without showing any signs or symptoms of the disease. These people can unknowingly transmit the bacteria to others. The disease is spread through the exchange of secretions during close contact such as kissing or coughing on someone. Rosenberger advises that if you, or someone you know, suspects they might have meningitis, to call 911 and limit contact with others. High fever, nuchal rigidity (painful neck), and a rash are common indications. “Symptoms of meningitis resemble those of the flu, and can only be diagnosed by lab testing,” Rosenberger said. “But one possible hallmark of meningitis is excruciating pain when you touch your chin to your chest. This disease can go from flu-like symptoms to life-threatening very quickly.” College and university requirements for other student vaccines vary from institution to institution. Private universities may have different requirements than public universities. For more information on vaccine requirements, contact: Collegevaccinerequirements.com or go to your college/university health website. DID YOU KNOW? Meningococcal meningitis (MM) is a potentially fatal bacterial disease that can cause inflammation of the membranes around the brain and spinal cord, an infection of the blood, or both. This illness is transmitted through the exchange of secretions such as spit or saliva. The bacteria can spread through close or lengthy contact with an infected person; living in close quarters, sharing food, kissing, or coughing/sneezing without covering the mouth and nose. Symptoms include vomiting, headache, fever, rash, stiff neck, disorientation, and sensitivity to light. Meningococcal disease moves rapidly through the body in a matter of hours of initial symptoms. Potential complications of meningitis include brain damage, hearing loss, learning disabilities, kidney damage, limb amputation and even death. One in seven adolescent and young adults who contract the disease will die from it. (Collegevaccinerequirements.com) Note: Meningococcal meningitis (MM) vaccines are available at the Bell County Health Department, Walgreens, CVS and H-E-B pharmacies, or through your family health care provider. Source: Say ouch: Vaccinations aren’t just for children
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