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SMC vaccinates against meningitis

Justin Tardiff | Wednesday, September 10, 2003

Saint Mary’s Health and Wellness Services provided their third annual vaccination clinic for meningococcal disease, or bacterial meningitis, on Tuesday.

With recent research showing that first year college students have a higher rate of contracting meningitis, awareness of the illness and vaccine is increasing.

This fall semester, colleges are beginning to fully implement the state statute issued in October 2002 that required colleges in the state of Indiana to inform students and their parents of the risks associated with the disease, as well as the availability and effectiveness of vaccination. Those students who decline vaccination must sign waivers.

“The thing that makes [meningitis] so frightening, even though it is considerably rare, is that it can be so severe and fatal,” registered nurse Cynde Horton-Cavanaugh said. “A significant number of people who contract it die or have life long side effects. Understanding this is a major motivation for parents to encourage students to get immunized.”

Studies show that about 2,600 people get meningococcal disease each year in the United States and 10 to 15 percent of these people die. Of these, approximately 100 to 125 cases are among college students and five to 15 result in death.

Junior Cathy Tindall became aware of the disease just before her first year at Saint Mary’s. She remembers being told about a student athlete who contracted the illness, showed the symptoms, and went untreated until it was almost too late.

“The symptoms [of meningitis] seem so common,” Tindall said. “The flu goes around so much that they can easily be ignored, so I think that it is better to be safe and get the vaccination, than be sorry.”

Further research is being performed to determine who is at an increased risk for the disease and why.