Experts recommend meningitis vaccine for students

by Jamie VanGeest

Living in one of the University’s residence halls can put students at risk for disease.

This is the first fall that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and The American College Health Association are recommending that all first-year college students get a new bacterial meningitis vaccine. The government approved the new vaccine, called Menactra, earlier this year.

The CDC want the vaccine to be routine for people starting at the age of 11, but also encourage all students beginning college who have not been vaccinated to do so.

Students in residence halls are nine to 23 times more likely to get bacterial meningitis than students living in other types of housing.

According to the CDC, the risk for college first-year students in residence halls is higher because they live in close quarters and they all come from different regions, bringing different bacteria.

Bacterial meningitis is caused by bacteria that infect the bloodstream, the lining of the brain and the spinal cord.

Approximately 3,000 people nationwide become infected with bacterial meningitis each year and 300 people die from the disease.

Because meningitis manifests itself with flu-like symptoms in the early stages of the disease, many students confuse it with the flu.

Ten to 14 percent of people with the disease die, and 11 to 19 percent of survivors have permanent disabilities.

These permanent disabilities include hearing loss, limb loss and brain damage.

“We know that meningococcal disease (bacterial meningitis) hits 3,000 people a year, and it peaks at age 15 to 18,” said Von Roebuck, a spokesman for the CDC.

Because many college students are in this age range when they begin school, the CDC recommends that first-year students get the vaccination, Roebuck said.

Third-year medical student John Villanueva said the vaccination is important because the disease can get in the way of a student’s education.

“It’s better off to prevent meningitis in the first place,” Villanueva said.

The new bacterial meningitis vaccine protects against the disease longer than the previous one and can be done in one shot, according to a CDC news release.

Dana Farley, director of communications for Boynton Health Service, said the new vaccine is better than the previous one.

Boynton Health Service is encouraging students to get the vaccination at their home health care provider. Boynton does not have enough vaccinations for the entire student population at the University.