The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus


Hidden hepatitis dangers

Not all students required to receive vaccination against potentially deadly virus

A virus a hundred times more infectious than the AIDS virusinfects 10-30 million people each year, and college students haveone of the highest risks for getting it. What is it? HepatitisB.

Hepatitis B is a viral infection of the liver that attacks theliver cells and replaces them with scar tissue and fat, which iscalled cirrhosis. The liver stops working and is not able tocleanse the body of its wastes.

College students are more at risk to this virus because of thelifestyles they lead. According to the Hepatitis B Foundation, aperson is most at risk for contracting the virus if he or she hashad unprotected sex or has had sex with more than one partnerwithin a six-month period, live in a household with an infectedperson, share earrings or use an unsterilized needle while gettinga tattoo, piercing or using drugs.

“Picking up the wrong toothbrush can lead to hepatitis Bif it’s contaminated,” said Cheryl Black, a registerednurse from the SMU Health Center, “So can using someoneelse’s razor.”

The American College Health Association says the hepatitis Bvirus is one of the fastest spreading sexually transmitted diseasesbecause it is spread through bodily fluids.

Also, 60-80 percent of people who share needles (including onesfor tattooing or piercing) have or are already infected with thehepatitis B virus.

Most people who are infected with the virus have common symptomsof fever, fatigue, loss of appetite, mild nausea or vomiting. Moreserious symptoms that require immediate medical attention aresevere nausea and vomiting, yellow eyes and skin (jaundice) and abloated or swollen stomach.

However, 69 percent of people who are infected with hepatitis Bhave no symptoms at all.

“You could be exposing people and not realize you’reeven sick,” Black said.

The good news is that hepatitis B is preventable. Once a personhas been vaccinated he or she is safe from the virus for alifetime.

Forty states out of the 50 require students have the vaccinationby the age of 12, including Texas. However, there are students atSMU who have not had the vaccination because their state does notrequire it.

Ryan Lamb is a junior financial consulting major from Kansas,which is one of the states that do not require the vaccination.

“My doctor advised [me to get vaccinated] but Ididn’t do it before I went to college. It wasn’t reallya concern to me,” Lamb said. “I would be concernedabout getting a tattoo though. I would choose a safe place and makesure the needles are sterile.”

SMU does not require the vaccination for incoming students andcannot put a hold on an account if a student has not beenvaccinated. However, the school does recommend it on the healthforms incoming first-year students must fill out.

“We put it on the health form to bring awareness to it. Myfeeling is that it is important for people to get [the vaccination]and be aware of it,” Black said.

Many students are not aware of the risks of hepatitis B becauseit isn’t something that’s talked about a lot in themedia or in health awareness classes.

“I don’t think there’s information on it toknow about it,” Lamb said. “I think a lot more peopleshould look into it if it’s required by moststates.”

For those students who do engage in risky behavior that exposesthem to the virus, Black recommends they get vaccinated.

A physician or nurse gives the vaccination in a series of threeshots over a six-month period. The SMU Health Center provides thehepatitis B vaccinations for those that want it for $40.

“No appointment is needed. Just come in and ask to talkabout getting vaccinated,” Black said.

Black also recommends that students come in to the health centeras soon as possible if they feel any of the symptoms or if theythink they might have been exposed to the virus,

“Come in and make an appointment to see aphysician,” Black said. “A definite diagnosis can bemade through a blood test.”

Because hepatitis B is not curable, getting vaccinated or notengaging in risky behavior is the only sure proof way to not getthe virus.

“If it’s required for most people now, you shouldget vaccinated,” Lamb said. “You might as well get onemore in the mix [of shots] anyway.”

More to Discover