As the college health service director at Thomas College, I am writing to inform you about meningococcal disease, a potentially fatal bacterial infection commonly referred to as meningitis, and a new recommendation from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
On October 20, 1999, the CDC's Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) voted to recommend that college students, particularly freshmen living in residence halls, be educated about meningitis and the benefits of vaccination. The panel based its recommendation on recent studies showing that college students, particularly freshmen living in residence halls, have a six fold increased risk for meningitis. The recommendation further states that information about the disease and vaccination is appropriate for other undergraduate students who also wish to reduce their risk for the disease.
Meningitis is rare. However, when it strikes, its flu-like symptoms make diagnosis difficult. If not treated early, meningitis can lead to swelling of the fluid surrounding the brain and spinal column as well as severe and permanent disabilities, such as hearing loss, brain damage, seizures, limb amputation and even death.
Cases of meningitis among teens and young adults 15 to 24 years of age (the age of most college students) have more than doubled since 1991. The disease strikes about 3,000 Americans each year and claims about 300 lives. Between 100 and 125 meningitis cases occur on college campuses and as many as 15 students will die from the disease.
A vaccine is available that protects against four types of the bacteria that cause meningitis in the United States ¾ types A, C, Y and W-135. These types account for nearly two thirds of meningitis cases among college students.
I encourage you to learn more about meningitis and the vaccine. For more information, please consult your son or daughter’s physician or log onto the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.