RALEIGH, N.C. — As students head to college, there is a lot to think about.
This year, for the first time, college freshman in North Carolina are getting information about meningitis. The vaccine to help prevent the disease is not required but highly recommended by health officials.
Each year, about 2,600 people contract meningitis, and 10 percent of those patients die.
Colleges and universities want students to know their options.
about the disease are part of the plan to raise awareness.
At North Carolina State University, students learn about the vaccine in their freshman orientation.
This year, N.C. State's
Student Health Services
estimates about 15 percent of incoming students have received the vaccine. Although meningitis is rare, doctors say it is very serious.
"They need immediate treatment. There can be death from meningococcal meningitis. Those who survive can have disability and long-term consequences," said Dr. Mary Bengtson of N.C. State University.
Something as innocent as sharing a soda can transmit meningitis. Doctors say college students are more vulnerable because they live in close settings and they share things such as drinks.
Starting this year by law, colleges in North Carolina must inform incoming students about meningitis and the vaccine.
The law was authored by Paul Harrison who lost his daughter, Julia, a college student, to meningitis in 2001.
"I would encourage every family to get this vaccine for their college-bound kids. Nothing would make me happier," Harrison said.
Some students seem to be getting the message.
"My mom made me, because I was living in the dorm in close quarters, just to be cautious," student Megan Gray said.
"My aunt had a friend that died from it, so for my protection I decided to get one my freshman year," student Sharah Holt said.
The symptoms of meningitis mimic the flu with fever, vomiting and fatigue. Headache and a stiff neck are also symptoms of meningitis.
The vaccine is offered at most student health centers and costs up to $85. The vaccine lasts three to five years. Some insurance plans pay for it.