CDC recommends college students get meningitis warning
Vaccines will be optional
October 21, 1999
Web posted at: 9:26 a.m. EDT (1326 GMT)
From CNN Medical Correspondent Rhonda Rowland
ATLANTA (CNN) -- College students should be told about the
dangers of bacterial meningitis and have easy access to a vaccine for the disease, a government advisory panel said Wednesday.
But the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Advisory
Committee on Immunization stopped short of recommending the
vaccine be required. The panel decided it's not cost-effective to require the $60 shot for meningitis, still
considered a rare disease. Also, the vaccine doesn't always
"Our data indicate college students and their parents should
be educated about the signs and symptoms of the disease and
to seek medical attention immediately if these symptoms are
experienced, and that there is an effective vaccine available," said Dr. Nancy Rosenstein of the CDC.
Physicians generally follow CDC guidance in treating their
Students who live in dorms rather than off-campus are more likely to get the illness
Students in dorms seen to be at greater risk
In 1996, there were more than 600 cases of bacterial
meningitis on college campuses in the United States. In June,
the CDC reported that the risk of college freshmen living in dormitories of contracting bacterial meningitis was more than six times greater than other students'.
The American College Health Association recommends all
college students consider getting the meningitis vaccine.
The vaccine is 85 percent effective against four strains of
bacterial meningitis, which account for about 70 percent of cases in college students.
Feels like the flu
Meningitis is a potentially deadly inflammation of the fluid
in the spinal cord and the fluid surrounding the brain. It's
sometimes referred to as spinal meningitis.
The disease usually is caused by a viral or bacterial
infection. Viral meningitis usually is less severe, but
bacterial meningitis can be fatal.
The American College Health Association recommends all college students consider being vaccinated.
At first, meningitis may feel like the flu. Symptoms include
headache, high fever, stiff neck and nausea. The symptoms can
come on quickly and up to 10 percent of patients die within
days of developing the disease. Survivors may have organ or
brain damage and lose limbs.
College meningitis outbreaks usually occur in late winter or early spring, when school is in session.
"There's been about a 50 percent increase (in cases of
college meningitis) since the early 1990s," said Dr. James
Turner of the American College Health Association. "We're not
exactly sure why it's increasing."
Studies suggest college lifestyle factors such as crowded
living conditions, stress, smoking and binge drinking may put
students at greater risk of getting meningitis.
It can be spread through kissing, sneezing and sharing
Meningitis vaccines considered for college students
October 20, 1999
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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