This year, eight cases of bacterial meningitis have surfaced at Princeton University and four cases have popped up at the University of California, Santa Barbara.
Bacterial meningitis can strike suddenly and result in brain damage, paralysis, hearing loss and amputation of limbs.
“The threat of meningitis has long been a concern on college campuses, where the cramped living quarters, crowded classrooms and teeming party scene create an environment where it can spread more easily. The disease has largely vanished from colleges and universities in recent years, as dozens of states required students to be vaccinated against it before arriving on campus.
“But officials who monitor the disease are troubled by the recent outbreaks in California and New Jersey, in part because of the number of cases but also because they each involve the uncommon “serogroup B” type of bacterial meningitis, for which the country so far has no approved vaccine.”
“This is a very, very serious infection,” said James Turner, a professor of internal medicine at the University of Virginia, who oversees the College Health Surveillance Network, which tracks student health trends. “It’s rare and it’s unpredictable.”
On the positive side, Tom Clark, chief of the meningitis branch at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports the strains are different and the infections are not spread through casual contact.
On the negative side, it is spread though “sustained contact or exchange of saliva, such as kissing,” and gee that never happens on a college campus!
Clark says that typically you will have a few cases in a short period of time but then you won’t have more. However officials are concerned enough that the Food and Drug Administration and the CDC gave Princeton permission to import and administer a vaccine to students beginning Dec. 9. Students will need two doses. The second will arrive in February.
If the flu isn’t enough to keep students off of each other is the threat of bacterial meningitis? Would students know to get to the health clinic quickly? Also what do you think about the colleges importing and administering a vaccine?