Wednesday, April 30, 2008

The most challenging part of GW's acceptance process...

So recently, I had to fill out all my forms to officially switch from GW Employee to GW Student.  I'll admit, I'm totally stoked about taking classes at GW.  But I realized that in order to take classes, I have a challenging task ahead of me:  I have to prove that I've been vaccinated

I know, it doesn't seem hard. But I, like most GW students, am not from the DC area.  And, like most people, I had all my vaccines when I was a toddler, almost 20 years ago (um, wow, I feel old). So my vaccine records are all in storage somewhere in a pediatrician's office in Center City, Philadelphia.  Clearly, not accessible. 

Now, let me first say, that yes, I have been vaccinated against all the normal stuff: hepatitis, measles, mumps, rubella, tetanus and meningitis.  But getting proof is more challenging.  And thinking about vaccines, and pondering questions like, "Should I get a tetanus booster or a TDaP?" and "Should I worry about meningitis since I'm not living on campus but I do live with roommates?" has caused me to start wondering about the chances of an outbreak on a college campus. So of course, I turned to one of the most expansive sources of knowledge: Google.  And I'll admit, I was concerned after only about three minutes of search results:
Mumps: Childhood Disease Makes Comeback on College Campuses
A Mumps comeback in the U.S. in 2006 was alarming in its severity, and the disease may now take several years to completely eradicate, according to federal public health experts. Interestingly, the viral outbreak occurred despite the routine administration of a second dose of a mumps vaccine throughout the early 1990s. These findings were reported in a recent edition of the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM). Among other data presented in the article is the fact that 84% of people between 18 and 24 years of age who contracted Mumps during the outbreak had already been given the second recommended dose of MMR vaccine -- a dose that should have protected them from Mumps.
and from the American College Health Association:
Adolescents and young adults account for nearly 30 percent of all cases of meningitis in the United States. In addition, approximately 100 to 125 cases of meningococcal disease occur on college campuses each year, and five to 15 students will die as a result. Evidence shows approximately 70 to 80 percent of cases in the college age group are caused by serogroup C, Y, or W-135, which are potentially vaccine-preventable...The American College Health Association (ACHA) recommends all first-year students living in residence halls receive the meningococcal vaccine. The ACHA recommendations further state that other college students under 25 years of age may choose to receive meningococcal vaccination to reduce their risk for the disease.
So clearly, while it is a challenge to prove that I've been vaccinated, it's necessary.  With all the risky behavior that happens on college campuses, we need to at least protect ourselves from what we can: childhood diseases.  Thankfully, GW requires that students have necessary vaccines. 

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