Meningitis Warning on Campus

Another Texas college student has apparently contracted bacterial meningitis. It is a potentially deadly disease that strikes almost 3,000 Americans each year. College campus health clinics are warning students to take precautions. Pat Hernandez has more.

Officials say the 20 year old student at Texas A&M was admitted to the hospital on Tuesday in critical condition. The university said once it was notified that he likely was a carrier of the infection, health officials began contacting people who may have been exposed, like close friends, classmates and faculty members.

Anna Dragsbaek is president and CEO of the Immunization Partnership, a non-profit organization dedicated to education and advocacy for immunization issues. She says this illustrates the importance of being vaccinated.

“The meningitis vaccine will protect students from a form of bacterial meningitis. College students have a higher incidence of contracting this, because they live in close quarters and because they’re around a lot of other people in their classes. So, there’s an elevated risk for college students, and all college students should have the meningitis vaccine.”

Bacterial Meningitis, which is more severe than viral meningitis, is highly contagious and spreads through the exchange of respiratory and throat secretions. Dragsbaek says because initial symptoms resemble those of the
flu: fever, nausea, headache and fatigue. Meningitis can be hard to diagnose.

“The symptoms that should really drive you into the doctor would be something like stiff neck, a severe headache, vomiting and nausea with a headache, high fever, sometimes even seizures, any kind of confusion, sensitivity to light, and if there’s just a general lack of interest in eating or drinking.”

She says while symptoms can vary slightly from person to person, even a few of them warrant a visit to the doctor.

“Because the only way that you can really prevent long term disability from meningitis is by immediate medical attention. If you don’t get in right away, a lot of times it will be too late.”

Floyd Robinson is director of the Health Center at UH. He says a new law requires first time and transfer students enrolling in college and entering on-campus housing, to show proof of having received the meningitis vaccine.

“We are very very stringent on that, we follow that to the letter. So in other words, if a student has not yet received the vaccine, they must receive the vaccine, and they would’ve had to receive the vaccine at least ten days prior to taking up residence here on any of our on-campus housing.”

Robinson says the clinic goes to great lengths to educate students about meningitis and how easy it is transmitted, to limit the possibility of passing on this serious disease.