The Tyler Junior College Health Center was busy educating students Tuesday about bacterial meningitis. On Monday, a TJC freshmen, Austin Phillips, died from the disease. On Tuesday, we spoke with a doctor about the risks and what you can do to prevent from getting the disease.
Tyler Junior College Student, Gianni Swann, said, "My mom makes sure I get every shot known, so I actually took the shot so I wouldn't get infected. He is one of the few. Doctors say the meningitis vaccine is hard to come by.
Ryan Thomas, Tyler Junior College student, says, "Last year, my mom told me to do all of this stuff and one thing on the list was go check to see if the health clinic has a meningitis vaccine. So I went there and asked the guy running it and he said there was no need to worry about the meningitis shot, we don't even give them out here."
Doctors say there are reasons the vaccine is not readily available. Dr. Craig Gunter, Medical Director at Tyler Junior College, says, "There's a very small group that actually want to take the vaccine and it's very expensive for the doctor ordering it and the patients coming and paying for it.
Health officials say bacterial meningitis is not common and they only see approximately four cases a year here in East Texas. However, the vaccine is recommended for large groups of people living in close quarters. The Center for Disease Control recommends college freshman that will be living in college dormitories receive the meningitis vaccine. Bacterial meningitis is not always carried from person to person, sometimes it already exists in the body.
Don Hart, Assistant Director Public Health Preparedness, says, "About 25% of population carries this organism in their noses and throat and it does not cause them any illness what so ever. The organism is common but the disease is rare."
Health officials say the best way to keep yourself from being at risk is to wash you hands regularly and do not eat or drink after anyone.