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Shots Should Be on College Kids' Back-to-School List

TUESDAY, July 31 (HealthDay News) -- Immunizations aren't just for young children -- college students need them, too.

That's the message an expert has for parents who will be seeing children off to college this month.

"Children who are preparing for their freshman year in a dormitory are at increased risk for bacterial meningitis," Dr. Peter Wenger, associate professor at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, said in a university news release.

Bacterial meningitis causes swelling of the brain and spinal cord. The potentially deadly condition affects up to 2,600 otherwise healthy people in the United States each year, and teenagers and young adults are in the high-risk category.

All first-year college students should receive the meningitis vaccine, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends. The vaccine provides three to five years of protection. New Jersey, Pennsylvania and seven other states require all incoming students living on college campuses either to be vaccinated or to sign a waiver saying they choose not to receive the vaccine, according to the news release.

Wenger said the college students also should consider these other vaccines:

  • Human papillomavirus, which protects against viruses that cause cervical cancer, anal cancer and genital warts.
  • Tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis, which is given as a one-time dose to teens and adults. Pertussis is also called whooping cough.
  • Hepatitis A, which protects against a virus that attacks the liver.
  • Annual flu vaccination and any vaccines that weren't received when the college student was an infant, such as varicella (chicken pox).

If college-bound children don't have time to get vaccinated at their doctor's office, they can visit the college's office of student health.

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more about college health and safety.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey-New Jersey Medical School, news release, July 2012

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