Vaccinations for college students and campus health care

When thinking about immunizations, we focus mainly on elementary and high school age children.
But what about young adults about to start college?
In this week’s health report, we look at vaccinations available to incoming students.

As students prepare to head out to the dorms, there are health issues to think about when starting college. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1,000 to 2,000 thousand cases of meningococcal disease are reported per year. Pre-teens, adolescents and college Freshmen are the most likely to contract the disease, because the bacteria associated with the disease can spread in small populations, such as dormitories. Symptoms include a sudden high fever, neck stiffness, joint pain, nausea, and a rash, among others. The onset of meningococcal meningitis is swift, and without immediate diagnosis and treatment, it could result in loss of limbs or death. Fortunately, there is a vaccination available. Dr. Thomas Phelps from the Cleveland Clinic discusses other conditions that make it advantageous for the disease to spread.

“It’s very rare, but if you have that immunity when your body ever sees it and it’s in stress, whether you’re out playing a sport and you’re sharing water bottles, or you’re going into a college dormitory where one hundred people live and share restrooms, the importance is to prevent them from getting exposed to that.”

In addition to meningococcal meningitis, another preventable virus is also a cause for concern for both male and female college students. According to the CDC, each year 30,700 men and women contract cancer related to the Human Papilloma Virus, or HPV, with 26,000 of those cases being preventable. HPV, is passed through intimate skin-to-skin contact, and can cause cervical cancer, and cancer in male genitalia, among other areas. Professor for the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Georgia Regents University Cancer Center, Dr. Daron Ferris, discusses how important it is to follow recommendations of health providers to get kids and young adults vaccinated for such a deadly disease.

“It’s devastating, not only for the risk of potential death, but the morbidity associated with biopsies, which surgical procedures, and the real threat of potential inability to have children thereafter. So it’s very important that we follow the recommendations and vaccinate people early. And not only vaccinate them early, but it’s critically important that they return for the second dose, and also the third dose.”

Director of the University of Alaska Fairbanks Student Health and Counseling Center, Dr. BJ Aldridge, says that the vaccines for meningococcal meningitis and HPV are available at the health center, along with the flu, measles/mumps/rubella, tetanus, and other vaccinations.

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