Meningitis: Should I get the vaccine?
Originally Published: October 29, 1999 - Last Updated / Reviewed On: August 15, 2007
I'm a CU student and I've heard in the media that meningitis vaccine shots are recommended. How do I get more information and a shot?
As a parent of a Columbia College freshman this fall, I was concerned about the increasing publicity that Meningitis has received recently over the networks. Since the population most likely to be infected includes young adults living in close quarters, do you recommend vaccination and is it available at Health Services on the Morningside Heights campus?
A concerned Parent
Dear CU Student and A concerned Parent,
Yes, once again meningitis and its vaccine have received quite a bit of media attention. An in-depth discussion about the workings of this illness, one's risk of contracting it, and data on the effectiveness of the vaccine are very important when making a decision about whether or not to be vaccinated. Relying solely on sensationalized media reports — sometimes full of incomplete and incorrect information — won't make us well-informed consumers about this and other serious health matters. Resources at the end of this answer are provided to assist you in making fully informed decisions.
About the disease itself; meningitis is the name given to any process that causes an inflammation of the outer lining of the brain — some viruses, medical conditions, and bacteria can lead to this ailment. The current discussion in the media refers only to one type of meningitis: that caused by a specific bacterium named Neisseria meningitidis. In the
Those who contract meningitis, or have some of the following symptoms, need medical attention as soon as possible because treatment with antibiotics is most effective during the early stages of the disease. The signs of meningococcal meningitis, which can resemble flu symptoms, include:
- High fever,
- Severe headache,
- Stiffness of the neck,
- Drowsiness, and/or
Among college-aged adults in this country studies confirm that meningococcal meningitis is in fact a rare event. However, of those few individuals who do get the infection, there's an increased risk associated with those who live in residence halls. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends that college freshmen living in dormitories be immunized to reduce disease risk. As with all medications and vaccines, there is the potential for adverse side effects, which can include slight pain and swelling at the injection site and a mild fever. Severe, life-threatening reactions are extremely rare.
Making a decision about immunizations is one component in taking care of one's health. What else can be done for a college-aged family member? Whether or not one is vaccinated, maintaining optimal health, by eating well, having plenty of sleep, managing stress levels, and exercising regularly are key components to staying healthy. For more information, consult the following web sites: