What college students need to know about meningitis

With a new school year comes mandatory vaccinations and one of the most important shots for college students is the meningitis shot.  Many don’t know that meningitis is a life-threatening infection and when you’re on a college campus you’re at a higher risk of catching it.

Dr. Tina Stefanski, “It’s very serious.  It can cause very serious outcomes, long term disability, and death.”

Meningitis is an infection of the lining around the brain.  When it strikes, it works fast.  It can cause death in as little as a few hours and although anyone can get it, college freshmen are at an increased risk.

“You see an increase in crowded settings because the way they’re spread through these respiratory secretions so eating and drinking, coughing and sneezing on someone. So you can imagine someone in a crowded environment, in a dorm, perhaps in a bar, in classrooms, on a sports team,” said Dr. Tina Stefanski.

Symptoms of meningitis include fever, headache, and a stiff neck.  It can also cause nausea, vomiting, and sensitivity to light. While it is a serious and deadly infection, it can be prevented with a simple vaccine.

“It’s about 88 to 100 percent effective in decreasing meningococcal meningitis,” Dr. Tina Stefanski.

The meningitis vaccine wasn’t always mandatory but that all changed after an outbreak at UL Lafayette in 2006.  Five students contracted meningitis, two of them died.

“As a result of that awful outbreak in the state of Louisiana, one of the families advocated to change the law and require vaccination prior to entry into college. So it’s a good vaccine and we just encourage parents to recognize that and make sure their child is vaccinated, “Dr. Tina Stefanski.


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