Meningitis. Menin-wha?


Meningitis is a serious disease, and college students are at a higher risk to get certain types of meningitis.  Why?

  • Shared living arrangements: Meningitis can spread quickly when folks live in close proximity to each other because it is spread by the exchange of respiratory and throat secretions (e.g. coughing and kissing).  Residence halls and large apartment buildings fit this bill.
  • Age:  Meningitis risk increases for people age 16-21, which are the ages of high school and traditionally-aged college students.

What is Meningitis anyway?

  • A disease of the meninges, the lining of the brain and spinal cord.
  • It’s not common, but it can be devastating. It can cause permanent disabilities (e.g. hearing loss) and death.
  • A bacteria, Neisseria meningitidis, causes most cases of bacterial meningitis in young healthy adults. It can also cause a blood infection. These diseases are called meningococcal disease. Young adults can also get a form of meningitis caused by a virus, which is typically not as serious and most people recover completely from this cause.
  • The Immunization Action Coalition website has videos (note – the content of these videos can be graphic and disturbing) that help explain this terrible disease further (a 2 part video narrated by Glenn Close) http://www.vaccineinformation.org/videos/index.asp?vid_id=0089&vid_cat=0016 .

What can I do about it?

  • Get vaccinated:  the vaccine is the best way to reduce your chance of getting meningococcal disease or meningitis.
    • The vaccine makes you less susceptible to most strains of Neisseria meningitidis.
    • The vaccine and booster are considered safe.  To learn more, visit the CDC website   http://www.cdc.gov/features/meningococcal/ .
  • Know the symptoms of meningitis:  sudden onset of fever, headache, stiff neck, and a rash.  Other symptoms may include nausea, vomiting and light sensitivity.  Seek prompt medical attention if you have these symptoms.
  • Maintain a healthy lifestyle that includes good hand washing practices, getting plenty of rest and not being in close contact with people who are sick can help.

Do I need another meningitis vaccine if I already received one…when I was like 12?

  • The vaccine does not offer lifetime immunity.
  • A booster dose of the vaccine is recommended at or after age 16.
  • Even if you did not receive a vaccine at a younger age, it would be a good idea to get the vaccine before starting college, or even after you get here.

Do I have to get vaccinated?

  • Some colleges and universities require a meningitis vaccine to enter their community.
  • UNC recommends the meningitis vaccine, but does not require it.  For a full list of vaccine requirements and recommendations from Campus Health, see     http://campushealth.unc.edu/services/immunizations.
  • The vaccine is highly recommended for ALL college students (see reasons at the top of this post), and of even higher importance for those who are:
    • military recruits
    • individuals traveling/residing in countries where the disease is common
    • individuals without a spleen
    • individuals with terminal complement deficiency
    • microbiologists who are routinely exposed to Neisseria meningitidis

CHS can help!

  • Campus Health offers the meningitis vaccine at our convenient, on-campus location.

If you have further questions, call 919-966-2281 and ask to speak to the immunization nurse or contact us at http://campushealth.unc.edu/general-info/contact-us .

Avoid having to battle meningitis while in college.  Get vaccinated!

Hoping that you have a safe and healthy time at UNC.

Dr. Thevy S. Chai

Addendum:

Have you heard about Meningitis B?

It is a strain of meningitis that can be prevented by a separate meningitis vaccine.  This strain has caused some outbreaks in universities and has the same potential for harm as the other meningitis strains A, C, W and Y.

Who can receive this Meningitis B vaccine?

Adolescents and young adults ages 16 to 23 may receive this vaccine.

Individuals considered at increased risk include individuals who have:

  • Been near an outbreak location of serogroup B meningococcal disease
  • Persistent complement component deficiencies
  • Undergone treatment with eculizumab
  • Anatomic or functional asplenia including sickle cell disease
  • Been routinely exposed to isolates of N. meningitis during laboratory work

CHS can help and offers this vaccine.  Meningitis B vaccine can be administered at the same time as the MenACWY vaccine.

 

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