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College Students At Heightened Risk For Lethal Meningitis

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – College students are at heightened risk for lethal meningitis, but the majority of them don’t get the vaccine that prevents it.

Doctors say it’s important they and their parents know about the dangers of the rare but devastating disease.

Life is full of unexpected turns.

“It was my dream school,” said Jamie Schanbaum, a meningitis survivor who lives in Austin, Texas.

In 2008, her first semester at the University of Texas at Austin, Schanbaum got sick.

“My first symptoms were flu-like, and then it progressed to more nausea and vomiting, and the next morning, I was incapable of walking,” she said.

Jamie Shanbaum is a meningitis survivor from Austin, Texas. She was on the BYU campus in February 2020 raising awareness about the lethal disease.

It was meningitis. She lost both her legs below the knee and all her fingers.

“I had no idea what my life was going to be like. I wasn’t even sure I was going to walk again,” she said.

The bacteria infects the brain and spinal cord, and can also affect the bloodstream. Early symptoms are mild, but progress rapidly.

According to the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, one in ten people infected with meningitis will die from the disease.

One in five survivors will suffer long-term consequences.

College students are at higher risk because they live, work and play in close contact, on campus and in the dorms.

Lacey Eden, a nurse practitioner and a member of the faculty at the Brigham Young University College of Nursing, said, “It’s spread through spit droplets. So, if you’re living in close quarters, sharing smoking devices, if you’re work down and not sleeping well in high stress, which are all things that are very, very common with college-age students.”

College students are at heightened risk for lethal meningitis. No one knows that better than Jamie Schanbaum, a…

Posted by Heather Simonsen KSL on Thursday, February 27, 2020

Only 14.5% of young adults have received the vaccine that protects against meningitis B, according to the CDC.

Schanbaum is visiting college campuses, including BYU, to change that.

“I want to make sure that no one else has to deal with this disease like I did,” she said. The vaccine is not required for students at BYU.

Part of her recovery was getting back on her bike.

“It took me about a year after I started walking to get on a bicycle, and about a year after that, I was an internationally-acclaimed cyclist,” she said.

Schanbaum won the U.S. Road National Championships, and made the Paralympic team. She was given hope through cycling, now she’s passing that along by saving lives.

In Utah, meningitis vaccines aren’t required by law for college students and policies vary among universities. That’s why it’s so important they ask their doctors about the two vaccines for meningitis.

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