Tuesday, December 16, 2008

College Freshmen and Meningitis Risk

Freshmen year of college is an exciting and often anxious time for students and their parents. Many are concerned about the pressures of college courses, getting good grades and attending the right parties. Also, many students are moving away from home for the first time and living in college dorms. This kind of communal living is a big change that often results in a lot of fun but can also increase a person’s risk of illness.

The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke reports that college freshmen are particularly vulnerable to bacterial meningitis. Bacterial meningitis is a contagious disease that is easily spread. Simple things such as sharing a lipstick, a drink or a kiss can spread the disease. Therefore, people who live in the same household, attend the same day care or live in the same college dorm are at risk. College freshman tend to live in close quarters under conditions that are optimal for the transmission of the disease, which might account for their greater risk of contracting the disease.

Meningitis can come on suddenly which is another reason that it might spread among college freshmen. Often, people do not know they are sick until they become acutely ill. Therefore, they may share a cup or a kiss without a second thought although they are already contagious.
None of this is meant to discourage dorm living nor to scare college students or their parents.

Rather, it is meant to encourage students to speak with their doctors about available vaccines and precautions so that they can enjoy their first year of college. It is also meant to encourage anyone who thinks that they might be infected to seek immediate medical treatment and request that appropriate diagnostic tests be done as soon as possible so that treatment may be started and catastrophic complications might be avoided.

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