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The staff of the Student Health Services department of California University would like to take this opportunity to inform you about meningococcal disease, a potentially fatal bacterial infection commonly referred to as meningitis and the recommendation from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

College students, particularly freshmen living in dormitories, have a six-fold increased risk for meningitis. 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 permanent disabilities, such as hearing loss, brain damage, seizures, limb amputation and even death. At least 70% of all cases of meningococcal disease in college students are vaccine-preventable.

How is meningococcal meningitis spread?

Meningococcal meningitis is spread through the air via respiratory secretions or close contact with an infected person. This can include coughing, sneezing, kissing or sharing items like utensils, cigarettes and drinking glasses.

What are the symptoms?

Symptoms often resemble the flu and can include high fever, severe headache, stiff neck, rash, nausea, vomiting, lethargy and confusion.

Who is at risk?

Certain college students, particularly freshmen who live in residence halls, have been found to have an increased risk for meningococcal meningitis. Other undergraduates should also consider vaccination to reduce their risk for the disease.

Can meningitis be prevented?
Yes. A safe and effective vaccine is available to protect against four of the five most common strains of the disease. Adverse reactions to the injection are mild and infrequent, consisting primarily of redness and pain at the site and rarely a fever. As with any vaccine, vaccination against meningitis may not protect 100% of all susceptible individuals. It does not protect against viral meningitis.

For more information
To learn more, visit the websites of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American College Health Association.