A Message from Dr. Rushing
Dear Appalachian Parent:
As the college health service medical director at Appalachian State University, I am writing to inform you about meningococcal disease, a potentially fatal bacterial infection commonly referred to as meningitis, and a recommendation from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Since 1999, the CDC's Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) has recommended that college students, particularly freshmen living in dormitories and residence halls, be educated about meningitis and the benefits of vaccination. The panel based its recommendation on recent studies showing that college students, particularly freshmen living in dormitories, have a six fold increased risk for meningitis. The recommendation further states that information about the disease and vaccination is appropriate for other undergraduate students who also wish to reduce their risk for the disease.
Meningitis is rare. However, when it strikes, its flu-like symptoms make diagnosis difficult. If not treated early, meningitis can lead to swelling of the fluid surrounding the brain and spinal column as well as severe and permanent disabilities, such as hearing loss, brain damage, seizures, limb amputation and even death.
Cases of meningitis among teens and young adults 15 to 24 years of age (the age of most college students) have more than doubled since 1991. The disease strikes about 3,000 Americans each year and claims about 300 lives. Between 100 and 125 meningitis cases occur on college campuses and as many as 15 students will die from the disease.
A vaccine is available that protects against four types of the bacteria that cause meningitis in the United States -- types A, C, Y and W-135. These types account for nearly two thirds of meningitis cases among college students. Meningococcal conjugate vaccine (MCV4) is routinely recommended for all 11 through 18 year olds. If your student did not get this vaccine at their 11 or 12 year old check-up, make an appointment for them to get it now.
College campuses have reported outbreaks of serogroup B meningococcal disease during the last several years. Meningococcal conjugate vaccines do not include protection against serogroup B meningococcal disease. CDC recommends the use of a serogroup B meningococcal vaccine for people identified to be at increased risk because of a serogroup B meningococcal disease outbreak, including outbreaks on college campuses.
I encourage you and your student to learn more about meningitis and the vaccine. For more information, please feel free to contact our health service or consult your student’s physician. You can also find information about the disease at the following websites:
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) (opens in a new tab)
- American College Health Association (opens in a new tab)
Dr. D. Taylor Rushing, Medical Director
M. S. Shook Student Health Service
Appalachian State University