Self Care and Other Topics
Meningococcal disease, or meningitis has been in the news recently causing students and parents to asks lots of questions. It is true that a number of cases in 15-24 year olds has doubled since 1990, but this is an increase from 300 to 600 people NATION WIDE.
Meningitis is a potentially life threatening infection caused by a bacteria. Early symptoms may be nonspecific, as with many infections, but the characteristic symptoms that necessitate prompt medical attention include: sudden onset of high fever combined with a sever headache, neck stiffness, or a smooth, purplish rash that doesn’t change color when pressed. When we are sick we don’t always recognize the severity of symptoms ourselves. If you hear a roommate or friend complain of the characteristic symptoms, suggest they seek prompt medical attention.
Meningococcal disease is caused by 5 serogroups of bacteria: A, B, C, Y and W-135. A vaccine is available to protect against 4 serogroups (A, C, Y, W-135.) In Oregon, unlike the rest of the country, 66% of the reported cases of meningitis have been serotype B, not covered by the current vaccine. For this reason, the Oregon Health Division does not support routine vaccination in college students.
The key points to remember with meningitis are:
If you have the following symptoms, get checked immediately by a health care practitioner: high fever (101° F or higher) combined with a severe headache, neck stiffness, or a smooth purplish rash.
Treatment for meningitis is available. It is necessary to recognize the symptoms and receive prompt medical attention.
The vaccination IS available at Yamhill County Public Health. Remember that 2/3 of the cases that have been reported in our area are not covered under the current vaccine. So if you get the vaccine, you still need to be able to recognize the symptoms and get prompt treatment. The cost of the vaccine is approximately $60 and you need to call in advance to make an appointment.
There are several lifestyle behaviors common in college students tat may increase the risk for meningitis: residence hall living, sleep deprivation, use of alcohol and other drugs and active and passive smoking.