Meningitis fears hit SHSU; vaccinations encouraged

Freshmen students living in dorms are highly recommended to get meningitis vaccinations after several reported cases in local cities.These students are found to be at modestly increased risk of the disease relative to people their age, according to the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices.Although there have not been any reported cases of meningitis on campus, students and faculty are urged to get vaccinated as soon as possible, health officials said.The awareness of meningitis was prompted after several cases were reported in surrounding counties, one resulting in the death of a Magnolia teen-ager.Keith Lott, director of the Health Center on campus, said it has prompted numerous students to get vaccinated.”We have a had quite a few,” he said.Lott said there have been calls from parents asking if there has been any reported cases on campus.”No cases on campus,” he said. “Not as of yet.”He recommends that students receive their vaccinations as soon as possible.”Even though there are no confirmed cases on campus,” he said, “…many students commute from this area.” The recommendation from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is that public immunizations be done when the incident rate of meningitis reaches 10 cases per 100,000 population.Meningitis cases have been reported in Liberty, Austin, Fort Bend and Harris counties.Students can receive vaccinations at the campus Health Center for $60.Officials said the vaccine reaches its maximum effect 10 to 14 days after administered and lasts for three years.Lott said the meningitis shot is costly compared to other vaccines. However, he said the fee is well below the cost of what one would pay in the community.The meningitis disease is an infection of brain and spinal cord coverings.Lott said signs of meningitis include cold or flu-like symptoms, rashes on the skin, soreness in the neck or spinal column area, as well as severe headaches.”It progresses so quickly,” he said.The disease can be spread through respiratory secretions, saliva and contaminated water.To catch the disease through the secretions, it would have to be inhaled, Lott said.Despite the ways meningitis can be contracted, it is easily treated, given no severe complications.”They (patients) are given antibiotics,” he said.Lott said there is no way of telling when someone will be infected with the disease.”It just pops up,” he said. “About 15 percent of people walking around carry it in their nasal cavity.”

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