Back-To-School Prep for College Students: Consider Vaccination Against Meningitis B

Every summer, college students (and their parents) plan back-to-school shopping trips in anticipation of the fall semester. But somewhere between buying dorm supplies and textbooks, it’s easy to skip one of the most important stops to prepare for what’s ahead: the doctor’s office. You may have checked every box on your list, but if you haven’t scheduled a wellness visit for your teen, they may not be ready for school just yet.

Because of living in close quarters with each other and engaging in certain behaviors, such as sharing drinks and eating utensils and kissing, college students have had higher rates of meningococcal disease, an uncommon but potentially life-threatening illness also known as meningitis.

Early symptoms of meningitis may be similar to and mistaken for those of the flu, but meningitis can progress quickly and potentially be fatal, sometimes within 24 hours. One in ten people infected with meningitis will die and one in five will suffer long-term consequences, such as loss of limbs, brain damage, hearing loss and nervous system problems.

Vaccination is the best defense against meningococcal disease, although vaccination may not protect all recipients. There are two different types of meningococcal vaccines and both are needed to help protect against the five vaccine-preventable groups of meningitis – A, C, W, Y and B.

Routine vaccination against meningitis groups A, C, W and Y has been recommended for adolescents since 2005. However, there were no vaccines available to help protect against meningitis B until late 2014. If you aren’t sure whether your teen has received both types of vaccines, scheduling a wellness visit is a great way to make sure they’re up-to-date.

According to the CDC in 2017, only 14.5% of teens have received a vaccine that helps prevent meningitis B. From 2011 through March 2019, meningitis B caused all US college meningococcal outbreaks, which involved 13 campuses, 50 cases, and 2 deaths among an at-risk population of approximately 253,000 students.

To help protect your teen while they’re away at school, talk to their doctor about meningococcal vaccination and visit to learn more.

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