Meningitis can be deadly, so vaccinations for the disease are encouraged at East Tennessee State University.
Legislation was signed Tuesday by Gov. Bill Haslam that will require incoming students at public higher education institutions to show proof they have gotten a meningitis shot if they want to live on campus.
The measure is named after Jacob Nunley, a Middle Tennessee State University freshman who died last year after contracting meningococcal (meh-nin-joh-KAH’-cul) meningitis, a bacterial infection of the membranes covering the brain and spinal cord.
It passed the House 94-1 and was unanimously approved by the Senate 30-0.
Dr. Lisa Ousley, clinical services director of the Student/University Health Services Clinic at ETSU, said the school’s clinic will certainly be a location students can receive the vaccination if they so choose.
This new requirement becomes effective July 1.
Ousley said the vaccine requirement is positive, very proactive and really is intended for the betterment of students and the health of all Tennesseans.
“One hundred percent, the advice is to get this shot, unless you have an allergy or medical reason not to get the shot,” she said, adding vaccination is recommended for all students prior to enrollment.
This new legislation will affect the new incoming students who live on campus and it will be a required vaccine before they can live on campus.
Ousley said around 1,000 people contract this disease annually and 10 percent of those cases result in death. Nineteen percent of people lose limbs, get brain damage or have other physical problems because of the disease.
“So it’s a high mortality,” Ousley said.
Besides being deadly, the disease is quick.
“It’s very fast,” Ousley said. “It presents a lot like a flu-like illness, so it can be very confusing to the provider.”
Ousley added that Jacob Nunley died in less than 24 hours of contracting this illness.
The student clinic at ETSU provides acute and episodic care for many ailments including headache, sore throat, stomach ache and injuries. Antibiotics are available, as are immunizations. Any vaccine can be ordered.
In the past, very few ETSU students have sought the meningitis vaccine because it was not mandated and is expensive, Ousley said.
At the ETSU clinic the vaccine is $130. Of that amount, $10 is for the syringe and disposal. The rest is to purchase the vaccine.
“We really don’t have any intention of making any money on this vaccine,” Ousley said.
For more information on the clinic, visit etsu.edu/nursing/shserv/ .