Most colleges require incoming students to receive the meningitis ACWY vaccine, but a new vaccine was approved in 2014 and it’s one many colleges do not require it yet. This vaccine is specifically for meningitis B, a less common but more deadly form of the disease.
Like meningitis, which is the inflammation of the membranes that surround the brain and spinal cord, the symptoms of meningitis B come on rapidly, often over the course of a few hours or days, and they can easily be mistaken for the flu. There may be sudden high fever, headache, nausea or vomiting, fatigue, and neck stiffness.
It is caused by the bacteria Neisseria meningitidis, which spreads easily from person to person through coughing, kissing, shared utensils and any other lengthy or involved contact, such as living together. This makes college dorms a breeding ground for it. In fact, college students are five times more likely to get meningitis B than the rest of the population. Between 2013 and May 2019, over 50 colleges in the U.S. reported cases of meningitis, and 29 of those schools reported meningitis B. While it is quite rare, it can be life-threatening, and it progresses incredibly quickly. One in 10 people who contract it die — sometimes within 24 hours.
If your child is between the ages of 16 and 23, it is the ideal time for them to be vaccinated; talk to their doctor about their vaccination history and see if they need it. Meningitis B may be a scary disease, but it’s also entirely preventable.
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