Warning parents, your college students may consider moving back home for
the rest of their freshman year after reading this.
The American Medical Association (AMA) recently published a study, conducted
by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), reporting that
college freshmen living in dorms were more than seven times as likely
to acquire the infection leading to meningitis than college students in
general and three and a half times as likely as the population of 18-
to 23-year-old nonstudents.
Don’t panic! This study also states that a student could substantially
reduce their risk of meningitis by getting the vaccination that is currently
available for the infection and
required in North Carolina by all students with residential housing.
What is Meningitis?
Meningitis is an inflammation of the membranes (called meninges) that surround
the brain and spinal cord.
The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) says
that symptoms often include:
- high fever
- stiff neck
- severe and persistent headache
There may also be changes in behavior such as confusion, sleepiness and
Young children and infants with meningitis may show signs of irritability,
extreme sleepiness, poor appetite and fever, along with other symptoms.
Meningitis can be very fast moving, so if you or your child develop suspicious
symptoms, seek help at once. The complications of meningitis can be very
serious and the risk of developing complications increases the longer
you got without treatment. Complications can include loss of hearing,
loss of sight, learning disabilities and brain damage.
What causes it?
Meningitis may develop in response to a number of causes, the most common
is viruses. The AMA says viral meningitis is far more common in the United
States than bacterial meningitis. It often occurs in epidemics in the
winter months, especially in closed living communities such as dorms or
barracks, and usually lasts about ten days, according to NINDS.
Who’s at Risk?
People living in community settings. This includes military personnel,
children in day care and college students. American College Health Association
(ACHA) officials say young adults account for nearly 30% of all cases
of meningitis in the United States. In addition, approximately 100 to
125 cases of meningococcal disease occur on college campuses each year,
and five to 15 students will die as a result.
Can it be prevented?
Some meningitis can be prevented with a vaccine. The CDC recommends routine
vaccination with meningococcal conjugate vaccine of children 11-12 years
old, previously unvaccinated adolescents at high school entry, new recruits
to the military and college freshmen living in dorms. Vaccination may
also be appropriate for younger children with certain health problems.
You should talk to your child’s doctor about the issue.
These recommendations are designed to help achieve vaccination among those
at highest risk for meningococcal disease. Talk to your primary care provider
to learn more about meningitis and what you can do to prevent it. For
help finding a provider near you, visit
CVMG Online or call the CVMC Physician Referral line at 828.485.2300.