By Robert Stoneback
The Danville News
DANVILLE — While meningitis is a disease modern medicine has learned to control, it is still essential for a student to be vaccinated against it before going to college.
“If you’ve gone to college in the last 15 years, you probably got this vaccine before you went off to college. And it’s really made a difference,” said Dr. Michael Ryan, chairman of Janet Weis Children’s Hospital.
It’s a shot everybody should get, he said, as meningitis is often a life-threatening disease.
The bacterial disease, which is harbored in the nose, is spread most commonly in the close quarters of college dormitories. Common forms of contracting meningitis come from one person sneezing on another or somebody touching their nose and touching another person.
It is for this reason that colleges frequently require incoming students to receive a meningitis vaccination before attending. Routine vaccinations began about 10 years ago, and incidents of the disease have dropped significantly since then, Ryan said. The total incidents per year are now at about five per every 100,000 people.
“Children are alive today because of this vaccine protecting them,” he said.
The meningitis vaccine has been approved for use on children as young as one-year old. It is usually not given at that early an age, Ryan said, and immunization typically starts around the time a child enters sixth-grade. A booster is then given every five to six years.
The symptoms of meningitis begin as similar to a flu, but it quickly develops into internal bleeding, that some may mistake for a rash. It’s one of the few diseases that can take a healthy person and leave them practically at death’s door by nightfall, Ryan said.
Other vaccinations new college students should receive, if they have not already, are whooping cough and human papillomavirus, which causes cervical cancer in girls and other types of cancer in men.
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