A Letter About Meninigitis

Dear Student and Parents:

The staff of Student Health Services at Rhode Island College is writing to inform you about meningococcal disease, a potentially fatal bacterial infection commonly referred to as meningitis, and the current recommendation from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH).

The CDCís Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) has voted to recommend that college students, particularly freshmen living in residence halls, be educated about meningitis and the benefits of vaccination. The panel based its recommendation on studies showing that college students, particularly freshmen living in residence halls, have a moderately increased risk for meningitis. The recommendation further states that information about the disease and vaccination is appropriate for other undergraduate students who also wish to reduce their risk for the disease.

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 fluid surrounding the brain and spinal column as well as severe and permanent disabilities, such as hearing loss, brain damage, seizures, limb amputation and even death.

Cases of meningitis among teens and young adults 15 to 24 years of age (the age of most college students) have more that doubled since 1991. The disease strikes about 3000 Americans each year and claims about 300 lives. Between 100 and 125 meningitis cases occur on college campuses and as many as 15 students will die from the disease.

A vaccine is available that protects against four types of the bacteria that cause meningitis in the United States Ė types A, C, Y and W-135. These types account for nearly two thirds of meningitis cases among college students.

The Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH) presently provides this vaccine free to all residents up to age 19. A single dose is recommended with one exception. Any high school seniors who were immunized more than three years ago, who will be entering college and living in residence halls or group situations are eligible for a booster dose. Boosters for those who were immunized more recently are not recommended. Boosters for those who are now sophomores or later, or who are freshmen but not living in residence halls, are not recommended.

I encourage you and your child to learn more about meningitis and the vaccine. For more information, please feel free to contact your childís physician or contact Student Health Services at 456-8055. You can obtain more information about the disease at the CDC web site, at the American College Health Associationís web site, at RIDOH web site, or at the Meningitis Foundation of Americaís web site.

Sincerely yours,

Lynn Wachtel, RNP, MSN
Director / Nurse Practitioner

Page last updated: Wednesday, March 8, 2006