Bacterial Meningitis

In June of 1999, the American College Health Association (ACHA) published a news release stating that because of new statistics showing that cases of bacterial meningitis are on the rise in college students, the ACHA is recommending that college students get the vaccine against bacterial meningitis.

The concern stems from nationwide surveillance showing that, while overall university students were not at increased risk for meningococcal disease, certain subgroups seemed to be at increased risk. The subgroups that were identified as having a greater potential of contracting the disease are: a) students who engage in high-risk behaviors such as cigarette smoking, bar patronage, and alcohol consumption and b) freshmen who live in dormitories.

Information about bacterial meningitis:

Meningococcal (bacterial) meningitis is a potentially fatal bacterial infection that causes inflammation of the membranes surrounding the brain. Symptoms of bacterial meningitis in order of frequency are: stiff neck, fever, headache, rash, extreme fatigue, nausea, vomiting, and sensitivity to light. The disease is transmitted through close, direct contact with with the oral secretions of an infected person by sharing glasses or utensils, kissing, and coughing. Meningitis is rare in persons over 30 years old and is more common in the late winter and early spring.

There are two kinds of meningococcal vaccines available in the U.S (Menomune and Menactra). Both vaccines can prevent four types of meningococcal disease, including two of the three types most common in the U.S. Both vaccines work well and protect about 90% of people who get them.

Questions and answers:

  1. Am I at risk for getting the disease since I am a college student living in the dormitory?
    The studies and statistics would indicate that there is possibly a slight risk for a college freshman living in the dorm, but the greatest risk with college students is that of engaging in bar patronage, smoking, and excessive drinking.
  2. Should I get the meningococcal vaccine?
    You should discuss the subject with your parents or family, family physician, or you can discuss it with UMS physician before making a decision to get the vaccine.
  3. What are the risks of getting the vaccine?
    As many as half the people who get meningococcal vaccines have mild side effects, such as redness or pain where the shot was given. If these problems occur, they usually last for one or two days. A small percentage of people who receive the vaccine develop a fever . According to the Centers for Disease Control, the risk of meningococcal vaccine causing serious harm is extremely small.
  4. Where can I get the vaccine and how much does it cost?
    University Medical Services provides immunizations by appointment (cost subject to availability) or from a local health department:
    • Greene County Health Department: 937-374-5600
    • Montgomery County Public Health Department: 937-225-4550
    • Clark County Health Department: 937-390-5600

More Information

For more information about bacterial meningitis, visit the links below or telephone UMS by dialing the extension # 7863, or just call 937-766-7863 from your cell phone.

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