GRAYSON COUNTY, TX-The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said one in 20,000 people get meningitis every year, most of them are between 16 to 25 years old. But in just a few days, a new Texas law will take effect to protect college students from becoming one of those statistics.
Last June, Texas lawmakers signed a new law requiring college students to get vaccinated for bacterial meningitis at least ten days before heading back to school and that law goes into effect in four days. We spoke with a health professional on what you can do to protect yourself from a serious, potentially fatal, disease.
Grayson County Health Department nurse Randy Brooks said college campuses can be ideal breeding grounds for bacterial meningitis.
"Young people are coming from all over the country. They're gathering together, they're moving into dorms, they're congregating into small areas, they share food, they share drinks," he said.
Brooks said , with the college lifestyle, the disease can easily be transmitted.
"It's spread through droplets for the respiratory system. You want to make sure to cover your cough if you got a cough of any kind. That's another contributing factor, college kids don't always take good care of themselves," he said.
Brooks said once a person contracts the bacteria, symptoms quickly progress within a few hours.
"Severe headache that comes on very quickly, a high fever that comes on quickly, pain in the neck, stiffness in the neck area," he said.
A new Texas law requires college students under the age of 30 to show proof that they have been immunized for bacterial meningitis through immunization records, signed documentation from your doctor or school official.
Until now, only health science majors were required to get the vaccine at Grayson County College. But starting January 1st, GCC's Shelle Cassell said under the new law, the college is taking measures to make sure applicants will meet their requirements.
"We're going to do the best we can to institute it smoothly. We're going to hold a clinic on campus January 6th for students who have not had their meningitis vaccinations," she said.
Cassell said while GCC never had any instances of bacterial meningitis, she, along with Brooks, agreed with legislators' decision to take the precaution.
"I'm sure long term health is probably going to be improved because of it," she said.
"I think it's a good thing, because bacterial meningitis can be so deadly. You can be fine one day and and at death's door 24 hours later, this is a disease that we can't ignore," said Brooks.
If you haven't been vaccinated for meningitis, see your doctor or you can head over to your local health department.
The new law will take effect January 1st.