Meningitis threat worries Cabrini student body

By Brittany Liberatore
September 30, 2005

Allison Sachs

College students nationwide are being urged to get vaccinated against meningitis before their freshman year. Meningitis is a potentially deadly disease commonly spread in colleges that affects the brain and spinal cord. Here at Cabrini, students are highly encouraged to get this vaccination if they intend to live on campus.

While the vaccination is highly recommended, it is not required for students. In fact, getting vaccinated is not as easy as students may think.

Alumnus Brian Fry, an English and communication major, graduated from Cabrini in 2004. He would have never lived to see his graduation day if it was not for the meningitis vaccination.

Fry contracted meningitis during the first three weeks of his freshman year. He was vaccinated, but he had two different strands of meningitis; the vaccination didn’t protect against the one strand he had. Fry said, “Apparently there are seven strands of meningitis. The vaccination which saved my life, and I suggest that everyone going to college gets, covers five of the seven strands.”

At first, Fry thought he had a very bad cold. However, three days later, he couldn’t even walk. Fry said, “I was very scared because I didn’t know what to do, and I didn’t know I was dying.” He was rushed to Bryn Mawr Hospital. The doctors hooked him up to an IV, gave him a spinal tap, and put him in the Intensive Care Unit.

Throughout Fry’s entire stay in the hospital, the doctors didn’t know if he would survive. Fortunately, Fry lived; but his road to recovery was not over. He had to have physical therapy because he couldn’t move his fingers or walk very well. Fry said, “One thing that made me recover so quickly was the friends I found in the first three weeks of college at Cabrini.” Fry was able to return to Cabrini and live a healthy life after it was almost taken by meningitis.

Under Pennsylvania law students are required to get the vaccination but can voluntarily decide not to be vaccinated. So many people are getting the vaccination that a shortage of the vaccine has occurred, according to the Aug. 19 issue of Insidehighered.com.

However, protection against meningitis is available at Cabrini. Susan Fitzgerald, the health services coordinator, sent letters out to all the students who signed the meningitis waiver. Fitzgerald is willing to order the vaccine for any student who wants to protect him or herself against this deadly disease.

According to Fitzgerald, in this year’s incoming freshmen class, 418 students out of 531 got the meningitis vaccination before coming to college. Freshmen are sent a waiver for the meningitis (meningococcal) vaccination.

Students who did not get the vaccination offered a variety of reasons for not getting it. Many students don’t like shots, don’t see the seriousness of meningitis or simply don’t have time to worry about it.

Freshman Ashley Paulus, a marketing major, never got the meningitis vaccination. Paulus said, “I was so worried about making my decision on what college I should go to that I didn’t make getting the vaccination a priority on my list. I know that I should get it, and I plan to do so.”

Ryan Gallagher, a sophomore business major, remembers his experience with trying to get the meningitis vaccination as a freshman. Gallagher said, “My doctor at home said he could not get the vaccination for me. When I arrived at school, I immediately went to the nurse and she did order it. However, I had to wait a couple of weeks for the shot to arrive.”

It is sometimes hard to suspect meningitis because its symptoms can be mistaken for the flu. Symptoms include a stiff neck, headache, fever, vomiting and joint pain. If anyone believes that they may be infected with meningitis, they should immediately go to the doctors or the emergency room.

Meningitis is highly common among college students because it is spread by coughing, sneezing, kissing and sharing cups. Usually outbreaks of meningitis occur in crowded areas, for instance, colleges. A college freshman living on-campus has a six-times greater chance of getting meningitis then a student living off-campus.

Meningitis is not to be taken lightly. This disease infects approximately 3000 Americans every year. Ten percent of those infected die. Even if meningitis does not kill the infected person, it can still leave permanent damage. One in five survivors suffer long term problems, such as hearing loss and brain damage.

Annually, there are between 100 and 125 cases of meningitis on campuses that result in five to 15 deaths.

Meningitis is extremely fatal because it can kill the person infected in 48 hours or less.

It is highly important that freshmen become vaccinated against meningitis. Up to 83 percent of meningitis cases among college students could have been prevented if they had received the vaccination.

Fitzgerald believes that there are many reasons college freshmen sign the meningitis waiver. She said, “The meningitis vaccine is very expensive and also in shortage. Many students who want it cannot receive it from their doctor and those who don’t want it may just have a fear of getting shots.”

The only fear students should have is contracting meningitis. Sophomore Christina Siderio, an elementary education major, expressed how happy she is to be vaccinated. Siderio said, “The main reason I got the vaccination against meningitis was because my grandfather had meningitis and almost died. I saw first hand how deadly the disease was and I feel safe because I got the vaccination.” This is an example of how a simple vaccination will leave students worry free.

To get vaccinated, students can go to health services and order the meningitis vaccine. It is $100 per dose; a receipt will be given to the student, so he or she can submit it for reimbursement from their insurance company. Students can pay by cash, check, or it can be credited to their student account. After the orders are submitted, students can expect to receive the vaccination about a week later.

Loquitur welcomes your comments on this story. Please send your comments to: Loquitur@yahoogroups.com . The editors will review your points each week and make corrections if warranted.

Posted to the web by Shane Evans

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