No one likes needles. Getting your shots done not only relieves your anxiety of receiving them, but it is also unbelievably important to YOU and the rest of the human population. For those seniors getting ready to pack up their bags for college, or for those grads setting off for graduate school soon, there is one key vaccination you need: the meningococcal vaccine.
Meningococcal disease is caused by bacteria called Neisseria meningitides (CDC). The infection affects what covers your spinal cord and brain, or your meninges. Meninx, which is singular for meninges, is a membrane that covers and protects a person’s nervous system. As much as 2,500 people get infected each year in the United States, and 300 of those people die from it (New York Dept. of Health).
Once these bacteria cause illness, the warning signs to watch out for within a few days are: feeling confused, feeling nauseous, vomiting (that’s never pleasant), and becoming really sensitive to light (CDC). This may sound like your common hangover, but meningococcal meningitis, one of the infections caused by meningococcal disease, can actually cause permanent hearing loss, brain damage or death within a few hours! Definitely more serious!
The most common people to be infected by the bacteria: youngsters living in dorms. In fact, 100-125 meningococcal disease incidences a year are from college students living in residence halls. Out of those incidences, 5-15 young adults will die (ACHA). Know why? It’s because people living in such closed quarters are just more likely to spread their spit and germs with one another.
Once someone is infected, the bacteria will infect their mucosal lining, bloodstream, and then vital organs. The way people spread the bacteria can be by direct contact (kissing or sharing drinks, anyone?) or simply through the air (like sneezing and coughing).
So if you plan on doing a lot of making out in college, this vaccine might just be a good idea for you and anyone else you’re going to school or living with. Other people who need the shot:
- people being recruited into the military
- people without a spleen
- microbiologists exposed to the bacteria
- people who are traveling to other countries where meningitis is common
- people with compromised immune systems
Let’s say you got the vaccine when you were younger. Think you’re safe? NOPE. MCV4, the meningococcal vaccine, only protects you for up to 5 years. If the last time you got MCV4 is close to that, you definitely need a booster shot, preferably when you’re between ages 16-18. When you do get a booster shot, it will boost your immune system and will make sure the first vaccination you get works. That way, you will be protected from meningococcal disease!
Now don’t let your college experience become a nightmare waiting to happen. Get vaccinated!
By ARIELLE COLON