Meningitis vaccines considered for college students
Bozof died within a month of contracting bacterial meningitis
October 20, 1999
Web posted at: 12:39 p.m. EDT (1639 GMT)
From CNN Medical Correspondent Rhonda Rowland
ATLANTA (CNN) -- Evan Bozof was an active 20-year-old college
junior at Georgia Southwestern State University at Americus,
Georgia. He was an honors student in the pre-med program and a starting pitcher on the baseball team.
Then, in March of 1998, Bozof contracted bacterial
meningitis, an infection of the fluid around the spinal cord
and brain that causes flu-like symptoms, including high fever, headache and stiff neck. It's sometimes called spinal meningitis.
"We watched the gangrene eat up his fingers until they
shriveled like dead leaves on a plant," said Lynn Bozof,
Evan died within a month.
The American College Health Association recommends that all college students receive the vaccine
A vaccine that's already available can protect against most
cases of meningitis. It costs about $60 and is 80 to 90
Researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta meet Wednesday to discuss whether college students should be routinely vaccinated against bacterial meningitis.
The American College Health Association already recommends
that all college students receive the vaccine. But, so far,
there's been no government recommendation.
Although the disease is rare, studies suggest students who
live in college dormitories, especially college freshmen, are up to six times more likely to get meningitis than students living off campus. Evan Bozof had lived in a dorm.
Although researchers say the illness is rare, the rate of meningitis appears to be on the rise for college students.
Students who live in dorms rather than off campus are more likely to get the illness
"There's been about a 50 percent increase since the early
1990s," said Dr. James Turner with the American College
Health Association. "We're not exactly sure why it's
increasing, but there's been some information that's come out
recently from studies on campuses in the Midwest."
Because meningitis is spread through droplets in the air,
college lifestyle factors may be putting students at risk.
Many students live in crowded conditions in dorms and are
often under stress because of schoolwork. Smoking and
drinking also may be factors.
In one of the latest campus outbreaks of the disease, a
Michigan State University sophomore contracted bacterial
meningitis earlier this month. That student was listed in critical condition at Lansing, Michigan's Sparrow Hospital on Sunday.
After that case, antibiotics were made
available to more than 1,500 students at the school. Vaccines
will be made available to other students, faculty and staff.
Two Michigan State students have died from meningitis since
Meningitis is caused by a virus or bacterium. Viral
meningitis is usually less severe, but bacterial meningitis
can result in brain damage, hearing loss and death.
College lifestyle may be a factor in the spread of meningitis
Symptoms can develop over several hours, or they may take one
to two days.
Some forms of bacterial meningitis are contagious. Health
experts say it's spread through coughing or kissing, but not
casual contact. Still, anyone who has been in direct contact
with a patient's oral secretions would be considered at
increased risk of getting the disease.
Bacterial meningitis is usually diagnosed with a spinal tap,
a procedure where a sample of spinal fluid is extracted with
a needle. The disease can be treated with antibiotics if it's
Dorm freshmen at highest meningitis risk, CDC says
June 1, 1999
Dorm residents risk bacterial meningitis
May 25, 1999
American College Health Association
Journal of the American Medical Association
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
CDC - Bacterial Meningitis Fact Sheet
Mayo Clinic - Infectious bacterial meningitis
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