Meningitis Info

The meningococcal vaccine is not required to attend Davidson College, but it is recommended for freshmen living in residence halls or for other students who want to lower their risk of the disease. Students should understand that meningococcal vaccination can greatly decrease the risk of infection, but it is not 100 percent protective against all meningococcal disease.

The meningococcal vaccine is available at the Student Health Center for students whose personal physician does not have it available or if they are otherwise unable to obtain the vaccine prior to arrival at Davidson. Call the Student Health Center at 704-894-2300 to arrange an individual appointment.

Meningococcal disease is a serious illness. It can occur as meningococcal meningitis, an inflammation of the membrane surrounding the brain and spinal cord, or as meningococcemia, the presence of bacteria in the blood. Meningococcal disease is dangerous because its initial symptoms often mimic those of influenza or other respiratory infections or migraine headaches. Because of this, it is often misdiagnosed initially. Early symptoms include high fever, headache, nausea, vomiting and extreme fatigue. Meningococcal infections progress quickly.

Meningococcal disease strikes 1,400 to 3,000 Americans each year. Approximately 10 percent of people affected by meningococcal disease die, in spite of treatment with antibiotics. Another 10 percent suffer from permanent brain damage, deafness, limb amputation, or kidney failure.

Anyone can get meningococcal disease but lifestyle factors common among college students seem to be linked to the disease. Overall cases of the disease among adolescents and young adults have increased by nearly sixty percent since the early 1990s, affecting an estimated 100-125 college students annually. Lifestyle factors common among college students seem to be linked to the disease: crowded living conditions such as residence halls, going to bars, smoking, and irregular sleep habits. Freshmen living in residence halls are up to six times more likely to get the disease than other people.

The bacteria that causes meningococcal disease can be spread from person to person by direct contact with someone who is infected or through droplets released into the air through coughing. It can be spread by kissing, sharing a cigarette or drinking glass, eating utensils or anything else that an infected person has touched with his or her mouth.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) and the American College Health Association (ACHA) recommend that all first-year students living in residence halls be immunized against meningococcal disease. The ACIP and ACHA recommendations further state that other college students under 25 years of age who wish to reduce their risk for the disease may choose to be vaccinated. A meningococcal vaccine is available that has the potential to provide protection against four of the five strains (or types) of bacteria that cause meningococcal disease - types A, C, Y, and W-135. The vaccine is safe with mild and infrequent side effects that may include discomfort and soreness at the injection site, lasting up to two days.

You can obtain additional information about meningococcal disease and the vaccine by visiting the information and resource section of the American College Health Association at www.acha.org; the Meningitis Foundation of American, www.musa.org; the National Meningitis Association, www.nmaus.org; or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/vpd-vac/mening/default.htm.