By Justin Long, Director of Housing and Residence Life at Florida SouthWestern State College
As many people enter college, they are filled with excitement and anticipation for the new adventure they are about to embark on. When thinking back of their college years, most recall the memories they made with friends, roommates, professors and more. However one memory no one wants to have is of being sick. There are so many ways to protect yourself from the many germs and diseases that everyone should, and in some cases must, take advantage of.
As students enter college, they are sometimes required to have proof of their immunization records, and this is important since “College presents a new world of opportunity, and a new world of risks. Communal living spaces, less-than-sanitary conditions, and irregular sleeping habits all can leave students vulnerable to disease.” Protecting your health is a priority and some colleges require that students provide proof that they have received certain shots before admission to the institution and college run housing. If a person’s values or belief is one that does not support immunizations, then they must sign a waiver acknowledging that they are aware of the risks they are taking by
not being vaccinated. http://www.webmd.com/vaccines/features/vaccines-for-college-students
Here at FSW, we require proof that students who move into LightHouse Commons, the on-campus housing facility in Fort Myers, have received meningitis and hepatitis B shots. These two are the most common immunizations that are requested by colleges across the country, and sometimes other colleges and universities may require additional shot records such as tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis vaccine.
Meningitis and hepatitis B viruses are highly contagious, so it is important for students to have these vaccines to help ward off these illnesses and prevent the spread to others. When college students live in close quarters, such as residence halls or apartments, it is much easier for the bacteria from these two diseases to spread. Being vaccinated is the best protection to ensure that you remain healthy and enjoy your college experience. Meningitis is typically an infection that causes the membranes covering the brain and spinal cord to become inflamed, and if not treated can result in serious injury or death. Hepatitis B is a virus that infects the liver and can lead to severe liver damage if not treated quickly and properly.
Another vaccine to consider is the seasonal flu vaccine, which “protects against the three or four flu viruses that research indicates will be most common during the upcoming season.” By receiving the flu vaccination you can reduce flu illnesses, doctors’ visits, and missed work and school due to flu. http://www.vaccines.gov/who_and_when/college/
As children, we receive immunization shots for various diseases that can wear off over time, so it is wise to check with your primary care physician to see if there are some vaccines that you need to update. We live in a global society, so the opportunity for exposure to various types of diseases is greater than ever. By ensuring that you are up to date on your vaccines you can “prevent getting and spreading serious diseases that could result in poor health, missed work, medical bills, and not being able to care for family.”
Sometimes cost can be an issue for individuals to get up-to-date on their vaccines, but there are still many resources and options to help offset this concern. If you carry insurance, these vaccines are typically included in most policies, even with a minor co-pay. “Under the Affordable Care Act, insurance plans that cover children now allow parents to add or keep children on the health insurance policy until they turn 26 years old.” Contacting the local health department is another option, as they may offer the vaccines at more affordable rates. Some colleges and universities have student health centers on site, so it is recommended to check with those facilities as well in case they offer free or discounted vaccines. http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/adults/rec-vac/index.html?s_cid=cs_650
Contracting any of these diseases or viruses can result in missing work or school, and that could impact your ability to be successful in those areas. Your health is your responsibility, and it is vital that you evaluate all the options to protect yourself and prevent the spread of these highly contagious diseases.
For more information about the vaccines required and recommended for college students, please visit http://www.acha.org/topics/vaccine.cfm or http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/events/niiw/ed-resources/partner-resources.html
Information resources for this article include:
Florida Southwestern State Collage