Sept. 13-26, 2002
Back Issues
State OKs parking garage
’92 bonds transformed Grounds
HR to implement payroll in Oracle Sept. 26
Nominations sought for Thomas Jefferson Award

Ayers paints realistic budget picture for board

Budget crisis at a glance
Research boosts economy
Why study war in 21st century?
On Ethical Grounds
Faith makes a good dad
In Memoriam
Hot Links -- State Governmental Relations
Bioethicist sees cautionary tale in clash of ethics, science
Vaccine holds meningitis cases to zero
Echinacea — Does the herbal cold remedy really work?
New chancellor installed at Wise
Events feature activists, authors, films and music
After Hours -- Green thumb comes with British touch

Vaccine holds meningitis cases to zero

By Kelly Casey

Seven years ago, the University experienced an unusually large number of cases of bacterial meningitis. Five students came down with the rare and sometimes fatal disease, which most commonly strikes college freshmen living in campus dormitories.

But since U.Va. started vaccinating its incoming first-year students against meningococcal bacteria in 1997 — at the urging of Student Health executive director Dr. James C. Turner — there has not been a single case of meningitis.

Galvanized by the widespread panic the 1995 cases caused, Turner became a crusader against the potentially preventable disease. His mission over the past few years has been to spread the word among parents, students and college health professionals nationwide that the vaccine offers safe and effective protection against most strains of meningitis.

He has been a regular featured expert in the national news — on NPR, ABC, CNN, Fox, the Washington Post and New York Times. This month, he was featured on CBS’s “48 Hours,” as well as a NOVA special that aired Sept. 3 on PBS.

Turner, who describes himself as shy, says he doesn’t mind being in the spotlight if it enables him to repeat a message that is important to the health of the nation’s college students.

“This is something I’m very passionate about. The meningococcal vaccine, though not perfect, protects against a rare, but dreadful, disease,” he said, noting that 20 percent of meningitis patients suffer serious permanent complications, such as an amputation or kidney failure, and 5 to 15 percent die.

Meningoccocal bacterium can cause meningococcal meningitis, which produces inflammation of the membranes surrounding the brain and spinal cord. Sometimes these bacteria infect the bloodstream, which can lead to kidney and heart failure. The bacteria are spread very easily through direct contact with an infected person and even through the air when a person sneezes or coughs.

Several states recently began requiring college students to be vaccinated against meningococcal bacteria. Virginia students, however, can sign a waiver not to be vaccinated after reading a fact sheet on the disease.

“In the first year of the state’s vaccination requirement, 94 percent of our entering students elected to receive the vaccine,” Turner notes. “Today, more than 9,000 of our 12,000 undergraduates have been vaccinated. Five years ago, we had none vaccinated.”

Nationwide, more than 2 million students have been vaccinated to date.


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