The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has recommended that college freshmen, especially those who live in dormitories or residence halls, in consultation with their parents, seriously consider getting the vaccine that protects against meningococcal meningitis.
CDC research indicates that compared to other undergraduates overall, college freshmen living in group situations such as residence halls are about 7 times as likely to contract the meningoccocal disease. College freshmen are also at modestly increased risk of the disease than others their age. One possible explanation for this increased susceptibility to infection is that living in close proximity to many other people increases the chance of exposure to meningococcal bacteria spread by respiratory tract secretions.
Meningococcal meningitis is a very serious form of bacterial meningitis, an infection involving the membranes lining the brain and spinal cord. Even with the very best of treatment, about 10 percent of patients die—and many of those who recover suffer permanent injury.
Initial symptoms of meningococcal meningitis include:
If undiagnosed and untreated, the illness can cause death within 24 to 48 hours.
Students developing such symptoms are encouraged to seek prompt medical evaluation at Hall Health Center (or when Hall Health Center is closed, at the nearest emergency room which is located at the University of Washington Medical Center on the south end of the UW campus).
A single vaccine is 85-95 percent protective within ten days after it has been administered. The vaccine does not cover serogroup B meningococcal infections, which are responsible for about 33 percent of all cases. Side effects associated with this immunization are usually temporary and mild, and include localized pain and redness at the site of the injection lasting one to two days and, occasionally, unexpected hypersensitivity reactions.
Vaccination is available at Hall Health Center to current UW students (check in at the Patient Services Center directly opposite the main entrance and ask to see a consulting nurse to get a prescription for the vaccine). All other patients need to schedule an appointment with a Hall Health provider for the prescription.