College freshmen will be required to have vaccine

College freshmen will be
required to have vaccine

New state requirements will mandate college-bound freshmen living on campus to show proof of having received a meningococcal vaccine this fall, according to a health department spokesman.

"College freshmen, especially those living in dormitories, are at a higher risk for meningococcal diseases as compared with other persons of the same age," said Joseph J. Przywara, the Ocean County public health coordinator. "Due to the close living patterns of college dormitories, the state Department of Health and Senior Services ruled that incoming freshmen residing on campus must have the immunization prior to moving into the dorms this September.

"Meningococcal disease is a serious illness that can be deadly and immunization is a strong way to fight it. We encourage all students living in dorms — not only freshmen — to receive this vaccination and reduce their risk of getting meningococcal meningitis," Przywara said.

"It is estimated that 100 to 125 cases of meningococcal meningitis occur on college campuses each year," said Freeholder Gerry P. Little, liaison to the Ocean County Board of Health. "Five to 10 students die each year of it. The living conditions found on campus make it easier for the disease to spread through air droplets and direct contact with infected people. Vaccination makes a lot of sense."

Edward Rumen, public information officer for the county health department, noted that state health officials distributed letters earlier this spring alerting medical professionals around the state of the new immunization requirements that begin this fall.

"Most family practice doctors and area hospitals will have the vaccine on hand. Parents are encouraged to make an appointment with the family’s primary health care practitioner and assure that their college-bound son or daughter is immunized," Rumen said.

He added that the health department also can provide the immunization at a fee by appointment.

Rumen said meningococcal meningitis is rare, but is a potentially fatal bacterial infection. In can result in permanent brain damage, hearing loss, learning disability, organ failure, loss of limbs or death. It strikes about 3,000 Americans annually and results in more than 300 deaths each year, according to a press release.

Studies have shown that persons age 15 to 24 are at a greater risk of getting meningococcal meningitis. In recent years, according to figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there has been an increase in occurrences on college campuses during late winters and early springs.