Originally created 07/31/05

State officials urge students to have meningitis vaccine



Students heading to college dormitories this fall don't have to receive a meningitis vaccine, but Georgia legislators want them to know it's a good idea.

According to the Georgia Board of Regents, any student attending a public college or university must either sign a waiver after reading meningitis literature or provide proof of immunization before living in the dorms.

Meningitis, a bacterial or viral infection that causes inflammation of the brain lining, is a serious and potentially fatal communicable disease.

"It's particularly important for college students who are staying in dormitories or military troops staying in barracks to have," said Terrence Cook, an Augusta allergist who also does immunizations.

Dr. Cook said that a new meningitis vaccine has just become available to the public, which is more effective and longer-lasting than previous vaccines.

It also is recommended for early teenagers, part of the "peak age" for contracting the infection.

Some insurance plans cover meningitis vaccines. According to Dr. Cook, the immunization costs $150. It also is available at county health departments.

"The important thing is that meningococcal infection is potentially around all the time. If you do acquire it, the results could be disastrous," Dr. Cook said.

Reach Rebecca Trela at (706) 828-3904 or rebecca.trela@augustachronicle.com.

What is Meningitis?
- Meningitis is an inflammation of the lining of the brain caused by either a bacteria or a virus.
- Viral meningitis is easily transmitted but rarely fatal and does not require antibiotics.
- Of the types of bacterial meningitis, the most serious is meningococcal meningitis. Up to one in five people who contract the infection, mostly adults, will die.
- Twenty thousand to 25,000 cases of bacterial meningitis are seen in the United States every year.
- Meningitis is spread through the exchange of respiratory and throat fluids, usually through close personal contact and crowding.
Sources: Answers.com, Georgia Department of Human Resources, Dr. Terrence Cook

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Symptoms of Meningitis
Many people mistake meningitis for the flu, which causes misdiagnosis or no treatment at all. Unlike the flu, however, meningococcal meningitis can kill an otherwise healthy person in 48 hours if unchecked.Signs and symptoms of meningitis:
- Headache
- Fever
- Stiff neck
- Extreme tiredness
- Vomiting
- Sensitivity to light
- Rash of small purplish, black-red dots
Source: Dr. Terrence Cook

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More information
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: www.cdc.gov
- National Meningitis Association: www.nmaus.org
- National Foundation of Infectious Diseases: www.nfid.org
- www.meningococcaldisease.com