What do college students and preschoolers have in common?
Among other things, both are at high risk for meningococcal disease, or meningitis, but now the big kids must get vaccinated for it.
Gov. Rick Perry signed into law last session a requirement that students headed to college for the first time get vaccinated for bacterial meningitis before move-in day. The law took effect Jan. 1, which means when dorms open at the University of Texas next month — or at any other Texas university this fall — freshmen will need proof they got their shots.
The law is named for Jamie Schanbaum, who contracted a severe form of bacterial meningitis called meningococcemia as a University of Texas student in 2008. She survived, but lost her legs and some fingers. Photos of a healthier Schanbaum, now successfully using prosthetic legs, adorn a blog devoted to her recovery — but the disease never had to get that far, her supporters say.
“If Jaime had been immunized from the meningococcus bacteria with a readily available vaccine, this heartbreaking situation could have been avoided,” reads one post on the site. Indeed, the Center for Disease Control encourages “safe and highly effective” vaccines against the disease. Most large pediatrician offices offer the service, according to Texas State University's Department of Housing and Residential Life.
Meningitis symptoms can come on quickly and prove fatal within 24 hours, according to the Texas Medical Association.
The disease can spread in close quarters — such as dorms or preschools — through coughing, sneezing or sharing drinks.
In Texas, doctors diagnosed more than 50 cases of the disease last year, according to the medical association. In the United States, some 1,500 cases arise annually, killing about 11 percent of patients, including up to 15 college students.