In a smaller school like SMU, diseases seem to spread like wildfire.
College living lends itself to spreading illness. Students often live in a closed space, like the on-campus commons. Along with shared bathrooms, sickness can spread easily.
Additionally, students also walk around campus and interact with hundreds of people each day.
In this kind of environment, viruses like the flu can become rampant among the population.
Essentially, living a college lifestyle is an extremely easy way to get sick.
One of the most worrying diseases on college campuses is meningococcal meningitis.
This bacterial infection is extremely dangerous. When someone contracts the disease, the protective membranes covering the brain and spinal cord become infected and swell. The Center for Disease Control lists a stiff neck, fever and headache as common symptoms.
It is important to catch the infection early so that it can be treated with antibiotics. If the disease goes untreated or is caught too late, the condition could result in death.
An estimated 125 students every year catch it.
Epidemics on college campuses have happened before. In 2013, two outbreaks of the disease occurred at the University of California and at Princeton University.
Several states are starting to require vaccinations or at the very least proof of previous vaccination or a wavier to enroll in school.
Currently, 40 states require a meningococcal meningitis vaccine before enrolling in college. Some states only require this for four-year institutions. Others only require the vaccination for enrollment in public schools.
Texas state law requires that students planning to attend any type of school take the meningococcal meningitis vaccine prior to enrolling in school. SMU requires all first-years to do so before moving into their commons.
These requirements are due to the large increase of risk while living on college campuses.
A study has indicated that living on a college campus increases your risk of meningococcal meningitis by 9-23 times.
In addition, the mortality rate for a disease such as meningococcal meningitis is as high as 14 percent, even in areas with developed and stable healthcare like in the US.
Meningococcal meningitis is spread by “kissing, sharing silverware, drinking directly from the same container, sharing a cigarette or lipstick, coughing, and having close social contact are examples of how this disease spreads,” according to the Minnesota Department of Health.
Avoiding meningococcal meningitis can be difficult. The vaccination for the disease is the easiest and most effective way to avoid catching it. However, basic sanitation and avoiding the sharing of personal things like silverware or lipstick can always decrease your risk.