Dec. 31 (UPI) — College students have a higher risk of developing a rare and possibly deadly bacterial infection than non-college young people, according to a new study.

Medical journal Pediatrics published a study Monday that found students between ages 18 and 24 are three and a half times likely to develop a meningococcus B, or MenB infection, which can cause a deadly blood disease.

The researchers examined three years of meningococcal infection data from the National Notifiable Diseases Surveillance System, gathered from 2014 and 2016.

A vaccine exists to combat Meningitis B, but it costs $300 and $400 for the two shots and isn’t recommended as a vaccine for students entering college.

“Although the incidence of MenB is low, it is a serious illness and parents should be aware that a vaccine is available and that it’s something they can talk to their child’s physician about to see if it makes sense to get the vaccine,” said the study’s lead author, pediatrician Dr. Sarah Mbaeyi, a medical officer at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Still, some have argued that MenB vaccinations that the rarity of the disease and an outbreak don’t justify vaccination requirements.

MenB outbreaks are not common. The CDC says “about 2 to 3 out of every 100 cases are related to outbreaks.”

While experts haven’t pinpointed the reason for the higher risk on college campuses, the researchers say students could be more susceptible to MenB because they live in close quarters.

“The organism lives in the back of the throat,” Mbaeyi said. “When people are in close contact they can transfer it from one to the other.”

The American Journal of Preventive Medicine estimates that it would cost nearly $14 billion annually for college students to receive MenB vaccinations.

In September, San Diego State University experienced a MenB outbreak that infected three students.

Yet, the researchers think the decision to get vaccinated against the disease should an individual one.

“If this paper does nothing more than trigger a discussion between the physician and the student and his or her parents then I think it’s already done its job,” said Ebbing Lautenbach, chief of the division of infectious diseases at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. “Even without a full recommendation by the ACIP, at least people can be thinking about it so they can make an informed decision.”



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