Vaccines are required for all sorts of things. The military requires a whole list of vaccines, hospital workers often must be up to date on vaccines or sign waivers, travelers to certain countries must be vaccinated against local infectious diseases, and sometimes even college students must get certain vaccines before they’re allowed to enroll. One example of a college-required vaccine is the meningitis vaccine. What even is meningitis and why do college kids have to be vaccinated against it? Let’s talk about it.
What is Meningitis?
First of all, meningitis is an infectious disease, and infectious diseases spread when given the opportunity. A college campus full of students is one such opportunity. So is a military base full of military personnel, or a hospital full of patients and employees, etc. You get the idea. According to the CDC’s research, meningitis just happens to really like college campuses. This is probably because people 18-23ish tend to be the target demographic for certain types of meningitis, and what better place to find humans in that age range all in one place than a college campus? Because of the nature of meningitis, most colleges require that all students living in residence halls (and often those who aren’t) be vaccinated against the disease.
So, what happens if your kid’s college doesn’t require the vaccine, your kid isn’t vaccinated, and they get meningitis? Several things, possibly. They might be just fine, but statistics say they most likely won’t be. If they do contract meningitis, they may experience symptoms like sudden fevers, headaches, stiff neck muscles, and maybe nausea/vomiting, sensitivity to light and confusion. These symptoms are often confused for the flu. The symptoms may come and go, but the disease will not. Meningitis is very serious and sometimes fatal. If its victims survive, they often have permanent damage from the disease.
There are actually 6 types of meningitis:
- Bacterial meningitis is very dangerous and requires immediate medical attention. Encourage your at-risk loved ones to go straight to the doctor if experiencing symptoms of meningitis, because bacterial meningitis will not wait for the next morning to become a potentially deadly infection.
- Viral meningitis is very serious, but is often less severe than the bacterial strand, and generally self-resolves.
- Fungal meningitis is rare, but can be contracted by inhaling spores, and is more easily picked up by people with pre-existing conditions like diabetes, cancer, or HIV.
- Parasitic meningitis is, obviously, communicated via parasites, but is much less common than viral & bacterial meningitis.
- Primary amebic meningoencephalitis (PAM) is rare & devastating. It is caused by a type of amoeba that lives in warm water and soil and attacks the brain with a vengeance.
- Non-infectious meningitis
- Finally, non-infectious meningitis is, of course, not infectious, and requires some sort of physical stimulus to manifest. It can be caused by some cancers, certain drugs, head injuries, and brain surgery.
The Damage Meningitis Can Cause
All types of meningitis attack the meninges, or protective layers, of the brain and spinal cord. As the disease attacks the meninges, it causes swelling & pressure, and will eventually invade the brain & spinal cord themselves. If left untreated, they may cause death or a variety of undesirable effects, including hearing loss, sepsis, memory difficulty, learning disabilities, brain damage, trouble walking, chronic seizures, and kidney failure. It is vital that a person exhibiting symptoms seek immediate medical attention.
BUT, as terrible as meningitis is, there is hope! Some brilliant scientists have created for us a meningitis vaccination, and we now have vaccines that protect against all 3 types of viral meningitis. Typically, the first round is given at 16 and a booster is given around 18 (college time). Vaccinations are also available for infants, children, and adults. Vaccines all around!
How ProHealth Will Help
If you or a loved one is heading to college or at risk otherwise, do the wise thing and go for the vaccination. ProHealth offers a wide variety of vaccinations, including the ones for meningococcal disease (meningitis). Call us, visit our website, or come on in to one of our locations for more information!