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Princeton Students Wait in Line for Meningitis Vaccine

Update Date: Dec 10, 2013 09:39 AM EST
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Roughly 2,000 students at Princeton University waited in line for the imported meningitis vaccine, Novartis' Bexsero. Bexsero is currently approved in Canada, Europe and Australia but has not been approved in the United States. The vaccine protects against meningococcal B, which is the strain behind the outbreak that started this past March and has sickened eight people at the Ivy League. The vaccines that are currently available in the U.S. do not protect against this strain.

The 2,000 students are just the first wave of people to get vaccinated. Princeton University has estimated that a total of around 6,000 students and other members of the school will get vaccinated throughout the week.

"I just wanted to make sure I could get in and out as quickly as possible," said Kate Dreyfuss, 21, a senior at the University from Short Hills, NJ, reported by NBC News. "It felt just like a flu shot, not very painful at all."

20-year-old freshman, Lesa Redmond, added, "There's not a reason not to get it. I think we definitely know the consequences."

Meningitis is caused by a bacterial infection that leads to the inflammation of the protective membranes of the central nervous system, which is composed of the brain and spinal cord.

Meningitis has severe symptoms, which include fever, chills, nausea, vomiting, headache and mental changes. At the University of California, Santa Barbara where the second meningitis outbreak is taking place, 18-year-old freshman Aaron Loy, who is a lacrosse player, lost his feet due to the infection. Loy is still recovering from his amputation and has received a lot of support.

Meningitis is contagious and can be spread through sharing cups or utensils and kissing or prolonged contact. The university had previously distributed red drinking cups with the phrase, "Mine, Not Yours," printed across it, in order to control the situation. Students have also been encouraged to stay clean. However, due to the potential threat of the outbreak, the vaccine was imported after being approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) so far has not asked the FDA to send the vaccine to UC Santa Barbara where the outbreak has affected four students. The meningitis expert with the CDC, Dr. Thomas Clark explained that the strain at UC Santa Barbara is different from the one at Princeton.

The clinic at the University will be held from noon to 8pm from Monday to Thursday. The vaccines are administered like the flu shot and will be available on a first-come first serve basis. A second round of vaccines will be administered in February. Princeton University is paying for the vaccine.

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