Young people attending college should make sure they’re immunized against meningitis B, since a new survey revealed 80 percent of parents are unaware of their adolescents’ need for an additional vaccination.
Meningitis B, or meningococcal meningitis, is one of the most lethal forms of the brain disease and can cause death in a short time. The common vaccine protects against four strains, but adolescents are still at risk for the group B strain of meningitis without a second, unique vaccination. Meningitis B accounts for nearly 50 percent of all meningitis cases in persons 17 to 22 years of age, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
“College students are at particular risk of contracting meningitis B, because of the communal setting at most colleges and universities,” the Associated Press recently reported. “meningitis B is spread through saliva, and nose secretions, so sharing a drinking glass, kissing, or any number of other common activities could spread the deadly disease.”
“When you get young individuals in college and even in the military (suddenly living in close quarters), it can increase the risk of certain infections,” said Dr. Terry Frankovich, medical director of the Western Upper Peninsula Health Department. “Get immunizations up to date. Immunization isn’t just for primary school. It’s important in high school, and it’s important in college.”
Meningitis vaccines are available locally.
“The AWYC meningitis vaccine is available from the health department, Upper Great Lakes Clinics, and Aspirus clinics,” said Kathy Mell, WUPHD community health coordinator. “The meningitis B vaccine is not a routine vaccine but can be ordered based on medical need.”
Frankovich said she hasn’t heard of any cases since she joined the health department in 2008.
“It’s been years since we had a case,” she said. “The cases are infrequent, but they’re devastating when they occur,” she added, noting how quickly meningitis B can kill an otherwise healthy person.
“Sometimes you need to provide prevention medication,” Frankovich said, adding vaccines and antibiotics may be administered to people who suspect they have the disease or have been exposed to it.
Many young adults leaving home are unaware of the vaccine or the dangerous disease it prevents.