Risk Factors and Meningicoccal Meningitis
Recently there has been some national media coverage of a very serious but rare disease, Meningicoccal meningitis. The incidences of this disease appear to be increasing on college campuses. In particular, college freshman living in college dorms appear to be at an increased risk.
While much is still unclear, it appears there are certain things that may increase a person's risk of catching Meningicoccal meningitis. These include: moderate alcohol intake, spending time in bars, passive or active smoking, and living with roommates in a confined space like a college dorm or apartment
Since Ricks College students should not smoke or drink, they avoid the increased risk from those behaviors. Most Ricks students do, however, live in dorms or apartments and, therefore, may be at increased risk of catching the disease.
Overall, the risk of contracting this disease is very low. Last year, there were 3,000 cases nationwide. That is about one case for every 100,000 people. Although as mentioned above, college students may have an increased risk of catching meningicoccal meningitis. The overall probability is still very low. Neither the Centers for Disease Control nor the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices recommends that all college students be vaccinated, but recommends that they be made aware of the risk and allowed to choose.
Meningicoccal meningitis is a serious infection of the fluid and tissues that surround the brain. It is spread through the exchange of respiratory secretions (i.e. coughing, kissing, etc.). The symptoms can include high fever, headache, stiff neck, nausea, vomiting, confusion, and sleepiness. The disease can worsen very rapidly and is fatal 10 percent of the time and can lead to serious complications an additional 10 percent of the time. It can be treated with antibiotics, but treatment must be started as soon as possible to reduce the risk of death and disability.
There is an effective, safe vaccine to prevent meningicoccal meningitis. It is up to 8o per cent effective at reducing the risk of infection and complications. The vaccine is available in the Student Health Center at a cost of $75.
For more information, pick up an information sheet at the Student Health Center or look on the Web at: http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/dbmd/diseaseinfo or www.acha.org/special-prj/men/faq.htm
Submitted by Dr. Rex Head, Wellness Committee