More attention to meningitis

The disease infects college students six times more than other populations.

In Georgia, a government panel has recently suggested all college students living in residence halls should be required to get vaccinated for meningitis. This recommendation was sparked by a newly developed vaccine that is effective for eight years, rather than the old vaccine, which is effective for only three to five years.

Meningitis is a deadly infection of the spinal fluid that college students should be vaccinated for and educated about.

It infects college students six times more than others. The increased infection rate with meningitis during college residence hall life is explained by close-quartered living. It is spread by coughing and kissing, which are two very common happenings in residence halls.

The reason meningitis is such a serious infection is that the symptoms associated with it can develop in one to two hours, or they might take a few days. The infection is so sudden that one can begin to experience symptoms one day and die within the week.

Vomiting, nausea, confusion, fatigue and discomfort in bright light are the main early symptoms to look for. Once symptoms are recognized, it is important to see a doctor right away and get a spinal tap to test for the bacterial or viral strains of meningitis.

The viral strain is less dangerous than the bacterial strain and usually goes away untreated. If bacterial meningitis is detected, antibiotics are available, and early diagnosis reduces the risk of death to lower than 15 percent. Besides actually dying, one who leaves bacterial meningitis untreated risks complications such as seizures, brain damage and loss of limbs.

Meningitis does not occur very often, which is why it is hard for some people to support the necessary vaccine. The vaccines also cost approximately $100. Boynton Health Service offers the vaccines, but they are not covered under the Student Services Fees.

The University should push to require the vaccines for all first-year college students. Many students don’t know how serious an infection meningitis is or what symptoms to look for when possibly infected. Students should be educated during high school about the infection to better understand why the vaccine is necessary.