With college students set to return to campus over the next couple of weeks, La Crosse health officials have some reminders for those students.
At the Student Health Center on the UW-La Crosse campus, the clinic offers vaccines for meningitis, hepatitis, and flu shots for UW-L and Western Technical College students.
According to Student Health Center Office Manager Don Hill, their office helps upwards of 4,000 students per school year—a service which all students should take advantage of.
“It's a stressful time for students, but it can also be a stressful time for parents,” Hill said. Hill, a father of two, recommends parents reviewing allergies which their son or daughter may have before sending them off to college, and planning ahead is important.
"Make sure they have a copy of their insurance card, and wherever they are going off to school, kind of do a little planning as well as which medical facilities are available,” Hill said.
Hill also said while students are at school, he recommends they drink plenty of water and get plenty of sleep while in school. "Students naturally they're busy and not getting sleep, so really try to emphasize getting some sleep."
The Student Health Center recommends students have items such as hand sanitizer, tissues, and cough medicine to help prevent the spread of germs which may cause cold and flu, but that may not necessarily help prevent the catching of meningococcal disease.
The disease, which is a form of Meningitis, is spread through kissing, coughing, or sharing food and beverages. According to the La Crosse County Health Department, 59% of teens in the coulee region are not vaccinated against the disease. "Cases are easily imported these days since everybody is a plane ride away,” Dr. Raj Naik from Gundersen Health System said. “If you happen to be exposed to somebody that is not immunized and is carrying disease, even those who choose to do the right thing sometimes remain susceptible to disease."
Naik said it's important to have large populations vaccinated to avoid meningitis, but other activities can also put people at risk for the disease. “It has to do with making sure that they make safe choices with regards to of course binge drinking, drugs, and making sure that they don't engage in high risk sexual behaviors as well,” Naik said.
Symptoms of meningitis include a sore throat, headache, or fever, but Naik said it's important to get vaccinated to prevent the disease because it happens so rapidly that there usually isn't enough time to treat it.
According to Naik, those who survive the disease can be left with loss of limbs, brain damage, or even deafness. Naik said if any person has any symptoms of meningitis, seek a medical provider immediately.
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