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New Law Requiring Meningitis Vaccine For Dorm Residents Inspired By UT Student

Beginning Jan. 1 all first-time students moving into University housing will be required to receive the bacterial meningitis vaccine at least 10 days before picking up their keys.

The state law known as the Jamie Schanbaum Act mandates that all residents of university dorms at Texas colleges and universities be vaccinated against the rare but aggressive strain.

Jamie Schanbaum, a sophomore in UT’s College of Natural Sciences, was one of two confirmed cases of meningococcal, commonly known as bacterial meningitis, at UT in the fall of 2008.

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Schanbaum was living alone in a North Campus apartment when she contracted the rapid-spreading disease. She had not been vaccinated.

The Daily Texan reported on her plight, which resulted in the amputation of both legs and six of her fingers. Schanbaum is now back at UT regaining her independence through the use of prosthetics. Earlier this month, she blogged a quick recap of her last year: from pleading with doctors to save as much of her limbs as possible last December to driving and walking to class today.

“This disease progresses extremely rapidly,” Sherry Bell, a spokeswoman for University Health Services, told the Daily Texan at the time. “You can be well one day and dead the next.”

Schanbaum and her family lobbied for the bacterial meningitis vaccine to be required rather than just recommended, as it was under a current law. After coming up in several previous legislative sessions, the act was finally put into law in part because of the Schanbaums’ efforts.

First-year residents now will be protected against four of the five most common strains of meningitis, although health officials point out that the vaccine is not 100 percent effective.

Between 1,400 and 3,000 people in the U.S. get meningococcal disease each year, including approximately 100 to 125 college students, according to University Health Services.

UHS offers the vaccination to UT students for $122.

 
 
 

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