Starting this fall, students entering 7th grade and 12th grade will be required to be be vaccinated for meningitis. The new Iowa law covers all students in Iowa's public and private schools beginning with the upcoming 2017-2018 school year.
"Vaccines are very safe and effective at preventing meningitis," says Winneshiek Medical Center Decorah Clinic's Samantha Mikota. "While the State of Iowa is now requiring the vaccine for certain school aged children, it is also a good idea for any parent sending a student off to college to consider giving them the vaccine because they will be living in the close quarters of dorms."
Most cases of meningitis are caused by a viral infection, but can be caused by bacterial or fungal infections as well. Meningitis is most commonly spread by coughing or sneezing while in close contact with others who breathe in the bacteria, sharing respiratory or throat secretions (coughing or kissing) or being in the same household, dorm room or class room as an infected person. People can also become infected by eating food prepared by people who did not wash their hands well after using the toilet.
According to Mayo Clinic, symptoms of meningitis include: sudden high fever, stiff neck, severe headache that seems different than normal, headache with nausea or vomiting, confusion or difficulty concentrating, seizures, sleepiness or difficulty waking, sensitivity to light, no appetite or thirst and skin rashes.