College students are at an increased risk for bacterial meningitis, a potentially fatal disease that will affect an estimated 3,000 people each year, most under the age of 20. Meningitis is seen more frequently in college freshman or other students who live in close quarters, such as in a dormitory. Students who are heavy drinkers and smokers, or are chronically sleep deprived or recovering from an illness, are also at risk because their immune systems are compromised.
Despite antibiotic treatment, 10 to 13 percent of those who develop an infection will die from the disease. Of the survivors, 10 percent will suffer long-term disabilities, which may include amputated limbs, hearing loss or brain damage. The disease is frightening in its speed; symptoms can progress to life threatening within two days, and sometimes, within a few hours.
The most common types of meningitis can be prevented. Because of the increased risk, The Centers for Disease Control recommend that college freshmen receive the current meningitis vaccine before living on campus. The American College Health Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics also endorse the recommendation.
For more information about meningitis vaccinations, call Hasbro Children's Hospital at 1-800-942-7434. The hospital hosts several vaccination clinics and programs, and many children and young adults qualify for vaccines for free or at a reduced cost.