Meningitis vaccine for College Students

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Is Your College Student Vaccinated for Meningitis?

The Centers for Disease Control reports that the highest rate of meningococcal disease occurs in those between the ages of 16 and 21. A meningococcal vaccination is required to attend many colleges due to crowded conditions in classrooms and dorm rooms. 

Some institutions require that the vaccination be administered before August 31. Check your college web site for documentation forms and more information. Students who have been vaccinated before the age of 16 will need a booster before heading off to college. 

The vaccination or booster can be administered as part of a check-up with your primary care physician.  This is also a great time to make sure all other vaccines are up-to-date.

What is Meningitis

Meningitis is a bacterial infection of the membranes covering the brain and spinal cord (meninges).

Causes, incidence, and risk factors:

The most common causes of meningitis are viral infections that usually get better without treatment. However, bacterial meningitis infections are extremely serious, and may result in death or brain damage, even if treated.

Meningitis may also be caused by:

  • Chemical irritation
  • Drug allergies
  • Fungi
  • Tumors

Types include:

  • Aseptic meningitis
  • Cryptococcal meningitis
  • Gram negative meningitis
  • H. influenza meningitis
  • Meningitis due to cancer (carcinomatous meningitis)
  • Meningococcal meningitis
  • Pneumococcal meningitis
  • Staphylococcal meningitis
  • Syphilitic aseptic meningitis
  • Tuberculous meningitis

Acute bacterial meningitis is a medical emergency, and requires immediate treatment in a hospital.

Viral meningitis is milder and occurs more often than bacterial meningitis. It usually develops in the late summer and early fall, and often affects children and adults under age 30. Most infections occur in children under age 5. Most viral meningitis is due to enteroviruses, which are viruses that also can cause intestinal illness.

Many other types of viruses can cause meningitis. For example, viral meningitis can be caused by herpes viruses, the same virus that can cause cold sores and genital herpes (although people with cold sores or genital herpes are not at a greater risk of developing herpes meningitis).

Recently, West Nile virus, spread by mosquito bites, has become a cause of viral meningitis in most of the United States.


Symptoms usually come on quickly, and may include:

  • Fever and chills
  • Mental status changes
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Sensitivity to light (photophobia )
  • Severe headache
  • Stiff neck (meningismus)

Vaccination recommendation information from Via Christi Clinic Pediatrician,  Dr. Elaine Harrington

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