Wheaton College Student Health Services would like to take this opportunity to inform you about meningococcal disease and the recommendation from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). This notification is required by the state of Illinois post secondary institution statutes for all incoming first year and transfer students.
Meningitis is a potentially fatal bacterial infection. College students, particularly freshmen living in dormitories, have a six-fold increased risk for meningitis. Meningitis is rare; however, when it strikes, its flu-like symptoms make diagnosis difficult. If not treated early, meningitis can lead to swelling of the meninges which surround the brain and spinal column as well as severe permanent disabilities, such as hearing loss, brain damage, seizures, and even death. At least 70% of all cases of meningococcal disease in college students are vaccine-preventable.
How is meningococcal meningitis spread?
Meningococcal meningitis is spread through the air via respiratory secretions or close contact with an infected person. This can include coughing, sneezing, kissing or sharing items like utensils, and drinking glasses.
What are the symptoms?
Symptoms often resemble the flu and can include high fever, severe headache, stiff neck, rash, nausea, vomiting, lethargy and confusion.
Who is at risk?
Certain college students, particularly freshmen who live in residence halls, have been found to have an increased risk for meningococcal meningitis. Other undergraduates should also consider vaccination to reduce their risk for the disease. This disease spreads quickly via the air and is very contagious.
Can meningitis be prevented?
Yes. A safe and effective vaccine is available to protect against four of the five most common strains of the disease. Adverse reactions to the injection are mild and infrequent, consisting primarily of redness and pain at the site and rarely a fever. As of October 2014, the FDA approved a separate vaccine to protect against the most common type of meningitis, Serogroup B. As with any vaccine, vaccination against meningitis may not protect 100% of all susceptible individuals. It does not protect against viral meningitis. This vaccine is available at SHS. SHS provides healthcare to all active students regardless of their health insurance status. The CDC recommends that college students receive a booster after the age of 16.
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