Leslie Limas, a nursing student at The University of Texas-Pan American, said she isn't afraid of needles as much as she is afraid of the risks of contracting meningitis.
"Although I am graduating in December, I am getting my vaccine today as a precautionary measure, especially since I plan to work in the medical field," Limas said. "We recently studied the effects of meningitis, and complications from the disease are just as frightening as the disease itself."
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), lists limb amputation, brain damage and vision and hearing problems as some complications from meningitis.
Because of the severity of the disease's effects, the State of Texas is now requiring students entering institutions of higher learning to receive vaccinations for the illness before setting foot on campus.
The Hidalgo County Health Department offered the meningitis vaccine to students for $10 on Oct. 27 at the UTPA library and will offer them at the library again from 8 a.m.-noon Nov. 17.
Entering freshmen, transfer students and those who are returning after having taken a hiatus from their studies must show proof of having received the bacterial meningitis vaccine within the past five years.
"The vaccine is currently required for students living in the dorms," said Rick Gray, director of UTPA Student Health Services. "Beginning Jan. 1, 2012 it will be required for all new students to any institution of higher education who are under 30 years of age to receive the meningitis immunization."
Currently enrolled Fall 2011 students who are registering for the 2012 spring semester are not required to get the vaccination before they are allowed to register.
As of 2009, a total of 34 states have adopted legislation requiring colleges to provide information on risks of meningococcal disease to incoming students and/or students residing on campus, and 15 states have mandated vaccination for certain students, unless a vaccination waiver is provided.
College freshmen, especially those who live in close quarters such as dormitories, are at a slightly increased risk for contracting bacterial meningitis compared with those who live off campus.
"Meningitis is a deadly disease," said Cesar Quintanilla, health educator with Student Health Services at UTPA. "Because of its severity, it is no longer a recommendation but mandatory for students who are new and transferring to the University."
Symptoms of meningitis in adults include fever, headache, stiff neck, nausea, vomiting, confusion and tiredness. According to the CDC, symptoms can take as little as a few hours or up to two days to occur.
Meningitis is typically caused by bacteria or a virus and inflames membranes in the brain and spinal cord, states the CDC.
"It is a disease that can be fatal within 24 hours if not taken care of," Quintanilla said.
The CDC also states bacterial meningitis can be spread through activities like kissing, sharing drinks and sneezing but not from breathing infected air.
The meningitis vaccine is available at UTPA Student Health Services for $90 and students can obtain one without an appointment.
"We recommend our students at UTPA to get this vaccine because infection can be a possibility," Quintanilla said.
For more information, visit www.cdc.gov or call (956) 665-2511.