Meningitis vaccine required for students starting January 2012

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    Beginning Jan. 1, any person under the age of 30 entering a Texas university will be required to get the meningitis vaccine.

    Meningitis is a disease caused by inflammation of the membranes surrounding the brain and spinal cord, according to The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

    Lisa Albert, TCU director of communications, said the Brown-Lupton Health Center offers the vaccination to students. Previously, the state law only required students who lived on campus to get vaccinated. Spring 2012 transfer students will be the first group required to have the vaccination to enter TCU, Albert said.

    MinuteClinic district manager of operations for Austin and Dallas-Fort Worth South, Elizabeth Rowe said the medical clinic in CVS pharmacies (MinuteClinic) also offers health care and vaccinations to students. There are 21 locations in the metroplex.

    The change was made because cases of meningitis were still diagnosed on college campuses, she said.

    “The diagnoses are in students that are not always dorm residents, so the state of Texas recognized the need to vaccinate all students,” Rowe said.

    Senior sports broadcasting major, Steven Bocanegra said he supports the change in the law because he trusts the state’s judgement on whether or not the vaccination is needed.

    College students are part of the high risk group for meningitis, Rowe said. The disease is transmitted to others by respiration. Contact with many other people in small communal areas creates a high risk at college campuses, Rowe said.

    According to AdolescentVaccination.org about 1,500 people are diagnosed with meningitis each year in the U.S.

    Although there is a new law, Rowe said there has not been an increase of cases.

    There are two forms of meningitis: viral and bacterial. According to The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, bacterial meningitis is more severe.

    “The problem is that the bacterial form is very deadly. If it doesn’t kill you, it can cause debilitating loss,” Rowe said.

    Along with the vaccination, the universal precautions people take to stay healthy would help lower the risk of transmission, she said.

    Rowe said the vaccination is a lot like the flu vaccine in that it will not provide 100 percent coverage, but it does provide protection against the most common strains.

    The vaccination is very accessible, Albert said. The Health Center, MinuteClinic and Tarrant County Public Health Department all offer it, as well as many other places, she said.

    Rowe said most insurance plans will cover part or all of the cost of the vaccination. People without insurance typically pay around $150, she said.

    Albert said the university encourages all students to get the vaccination to keep the community healthy.

    Protect yourself against Meningitis
    Only one vaccination needed if received after age 16
    Get a booster shot if vaccinated before age 16

    Signs and Symptoms:
    Fever
    Stiff neck
    Headache 
    Nausea
    Vomiting
    Sensitivity to light
    Altered mental status

    Seek help right away if you suspect you may have Meningitis.

    Information retrieved from: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention