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					                                     MENINGOCOCCAL DISEASE
                                    Information for Students and Parents

On October 20, 1999, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) of the Centers for Disease
Control and Prevention (CDC) modified its guidelines for the use of meningococcal vaccine to prevent bacterial
meningitis. Citing results of two CDC studies done in 1998 which identified the slightly higher risk among college
freshmen dormitory residents, the ACIP recommended that students and parents be provided information about
meningococcal disease and the benefits of vaccination. This decision is consistent with the American College Health
Association’s (ACHA) 1997 recommendation that college students should consider vaccination to reduce their risk
for the potentially fatal meningococcal disease.

Although meningococcal disease is rare, it is a high-risk event. The following information is being provided to
educate parents and students about the disease so that an informed choice can be made about vaccination.

        Meningococcal disease is an extremely devastating disease with potentially fatal consequences that has
         occurred with increasing frequency in recent years among teenagers and young adults. Meningococcal
         disease, caused by the bacterium Neisseria meningitidis, can result in hearing loss, kidney failure,
         amputation of the limbs and permanent brain injury. The disease most commonly is expressed as either
         meningococcal meningitis, an inflammation of the membranes surrounding the brain and spinal cord or
         meningococcemia, a presence of bacteria in the blood. Because meningococcal disease can cause grave
         illness and rapidly progress to death, it requires early diagnosis and treatment.

        Symptoms: The disease can easily be misdiagnosed as something less serious, because symptoms are
         similar to the flu. The most common symptoms include fever, headaches, neck stiffness, confusion, rash,
         nausea, vomiting and lethargy. Anyone with similar symptoms should contact a physician immediately.

        Transmission: Meningococcal bacteria are transmitted through the air via droplets of respiratory
         secretions (such as coughing or sneezing) and direct contact with infected individuals. Oral contact with
         shared items such as cigarettes or drinking glasses or through intimate contact such as kissing could put a
         person at risk for acquiring the infection.

        Incidence: Meningococcal disease occurs rarely and sporadically throughout the year, although outbreaks
         tend to occur in late winter and early spring- when college classes are in session. The incidence of
         meningococcal disease in the United States is about 3,000 cases annually. The case fatality rate is
         approximately 12%. An estimated 100-125 cases of meningococcal disease occur annually among college
         students and 5 to 15 students die as a result. Since 1991, cases of meningococcal disease among 15-24
         year olds have more than doubled. Since 1996, there have been 51 outbreaks, six of which occurred in

        Risk: Research shows that students living in dormitories, particularly freshmen are at higher risk for
         meningococcal disease than college students are overall. Data suggests that certain behavioral factors
         such as alcohol consumption, bar patronage and tobacco use (both active and passive smoking) may
         increase the risk for contracting meningococcal disease. Other groups at increased risk include those in
         close contact with a known case, upper respiratory infections with compromised immune systems, and
         person’s traveling to endemic areas of the world.

        Treatment: The disease progresses rapidly, often in as little as 12 hours. Early recognition, performance
         of a lumbar puncture (spinal tap), and prompt initiation of antimicrobial therapy are crucial. Anyone who
         has had close, intimate contact with a person diagnosed with meningococcal meningitis should see a
         physician immediately for prophylactic antibiotic treatment.
        The majority of meningococcal cases in the college age group are preventable with the meningococcal
         vaccine currently available in the U.S. The American College Health Association (ACHA) recommends
         that all college students should “consider vaccination to reduce their risk” for the potentially fatal
         meningococcal disease.

        There are two vaccines available in the U.S. Meningococcal polysaccharide vaccine (MPSV4 marketed
         as Menomune) has been available since the 1970s. Meningococcal conjugate vaccine (MCV4 marketed
         as Menactra) was licensed in 2005.

        MCV4 is the preferred vaccine for people 11-55 years of age, but MPSV4 can be used if MCV4 is not

        Immunization against the meningococcus bacterium may be recommended when an outbreak of
         meningococcal disease has occurred in the college community. Immunization should not be used in place
         of prophylactic antibiotics for those exposed to an infected person.

        MCV4 is now recommended for all children 11-12 years of age.

        Maximize your body’s own immune system response. A lifestyle that includes a balanced diet, adequate
         sleep, appropriate exercise, and the avoidance of excessive stress is very important.

        Avoiding upper respiratory tract infections and inhalation of cigarette smoke may help to protect from
         invasive disease.

        Everyone should be sensitive to public health measures that decrease exposure to oral secretions, such as
         covering one’s mouth when coughing or sneezing and washing hands after contact with oral secretions. In
         particular, do not make a habit of sharing drinks and cigarettes.


     Report any suspected or diagnosed case of meningococcal disease (on campus or in neighboring communities)
     to the Office of Health and Safety at 768-1755. Our Lady of the Lake College has been a member institution of
     the American College Health Association (ACHA) since 1997 and uses the ACHA response plan to
     appropriately and expeditiously respond to sporadic cases or an outbreak of meningococcal disease.

     The vaccine is available at the Total Occupational Medicine Clinic, but call ahead to ensure the availability.
     The phone number for the Drusilla Rd. location is 924-4460. The cost for the vaccine is $90.00. The vaccine
     may also be available from your primary health care provider or through the Public Health Department.

     For more information about meningococcal disease, please contact the office of Health and Safety at 768-
     1755. Or check the CDC website at

References: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
            The American College Health Association (ACHA)

             prepared by DLG/Office of Health & Safety/OLOL College                                August 2005

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