Legislation may require college students to get bacterial mening - KFVS12 News & Weather Cape Girardeau, Carbondale, Poplar Bluff

Legislation may require college students to get bacterial meningitis vaccine

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CAPE GIRARDEAU, MO (KFVS) -

There may soon be another vaccination for Missouri college students to cross off their list.

Students living on campus at every school in Missouri could be required to get vaccinated against bacterial meningitis starting as early as next year.

The Senate Health Committee endorsed the legislation Thursday.

The panel heard testimony two weeks ago from a former college student who suffered permanent disabilities because of bacterial meningitis.

The meningitis vaccine is not required for students entering college, but that could soon change.

"I'm a big fan of the meningitis vaccination," said Bruce Skinner, Southeast Missouri State University Asst. V.P. of Student Success and Director of Office of Residence Life. "Being responsible for the residence halls here and the number of students that live here in close proximity I'm supportive of students getting the meningitis vaccination and I share that at all of the orientation sessions as well."

Just last year, seven students at Princeton University were diagnosed with bacterial meningitis over the course of several months.

While that sort of outbreak hasn't happened locally, registered nurse Sandy Gibbons said this potentially deadly disease spreads quickly on college campuses.

"They're out on their own, they're busy. They have so many connections and so many meetings, sitting in the classroom. There's so many ways and so many different people and it happens so fast," said Gibbons, who is Immunization Coordinator at the Cape Girardeau County Health Dept. "That's the biggest thing. It happens so fast that by the time we figure out what's going on it's too late to get them back 100 percent."

Meningitis is fast-acting. Often presenting as flu symptoms, the disease causes swelling of the brain lining and the effects can be irreversible.

"A lot of people; it starts out looking like a cold. Maybe the flu. You'll think you have the flu, but they say within 24 hours your limbs start turning blue because they don't get the oxygen they need and most people end up losing some partial of their limbs, if not all of them and that's if they survive," Gibbons said.

About one-third of the estimated 3,000 SEMO students living on-campus have gotten the vaccine.

This legislation could streamline the process for future applicants.

"Well I do appreciate that the legislation looks at the entire state so that when a students is applying to a university they know these are the things I'm going to need and not difference at Southeast or another school," Skinner said.

If you're worried about affording the vaccine, don't.

Gibbons said it's usually covered under insurance or given for free at the health department.

It's something she strongly recommends.

"To me it's very important to anybody. My senior, I made her take it when it came out before she could play volleyball," she said.

Should the legislation pass, the law would take effect in July of 2015.

That means college students living on any Missouri campus next fall would be required to have the vaccination.

The legislation does include religious and medical exemptions.

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