Thursday, August 30, 2007

Hit ’em with your best shot: Officials recommend freshmen receive vaccination

Freshman Traye Willis from Alpine arranges his dorm room in JSU’s Daugette Hall. College health officials recommend new freshmen receive a vaccination against meningococcal disease. Photo: Bill Wilson/The Anniston Star

JACKSONVILLE — Darius Higgins has plenty to worry about.

The new freshman at Jacksonville State University worked his summer job in his hometown of Scottsboro through the weekend to pay his tuition. So he moved in to his new dorm with a roommate he’d never met the day before classes started.

But his health away from home doesn’t rank high on his list of concerns.

“We met with the (resident advisers), and I think they’re pretty well trained in what to do,” Higgins said. “They’ll take good care of us.”

Higgins hasn’t done it yet, but the state’s health department and college health officials nationwide recommend new freshmen get vaccinated against meningococcal disease, also known as meningitis.

Nancy Edge-Schmitz, director of JSU’s student health center, said college freshmen living in dorms are six times more likely than the general population to acquire the disease.

“They’re in a new environment, a residence hall in close contact with other people,” she said. “We usually try to let the parents know their options when they come to orientation.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the disease is spread through person-to-person contact by coughing, kissing or sharing eating utensils.

Symptoms may take two days to appear, and they include high fever, chills and a rash. They can be mistaken for the flu, but the disease is fatal for between 10 and 14 percent of those who acquire it.

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