American College Health Association Issues New Meningococcal Disease Immunization Recommendations for First-Year Students Living in Residence Halls

BALTIMORE -- The American College Health Association (ACHA) today issued a stronger meningococcal disease vaccination recommendation that will help ensure all first-year students living in residence halls are immunized with a reformulated meningococcal vaccine recently approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

   

ACHA's decision is consistent with recent recommendations approved by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) to immunize all incoming college freshmen living in dormitories (or residence halls) against meningococcal disease.

   

The new recommendations strengthen ACHA's previous recommendations, which until now only encouraged health care providers to educate college students, particularly first-year students who plan to live in residence halls, and their parents about meningococcal disease and the potential benefits of vaccination.

   

ACHA and ACIP's new recommendations further state that other college students under 25 years of age may choose to receive meningococcal vaccination to reduce their risk for the disease.

   

"ACHA is pleased that a new meningococcal conjugate vaccine is now

available and that ACIP provided a firm recommendation for immunization of

first-year students living in residence halls," said James Turner, MD, chair

of ACHA's Vaccine Preventable Diseases Committee and executive director of the

department of student health at the University of Virginia.  "This is a

significant step in preventing meningococcal disease and will help college

health professionals protect college students against this potentially deadly

infection."

   

The new conjugate vaccine (unlike the previously recommended

polysaccharide vaccine) has the potential to provide longer duration of

protection and herd immunity against meningococcal infection; which means that

by immunizing a large proportion of the population, even those who are not

vaccinated will likely be protected.  The FDA approved the vaccine for use

among persons aged 11 to 55 years.

   

ACHA and ACIP's new recommendation, coupled with the availability of the

conjugate vaccine, will help increase rates of immunization against

meningococcal disease, and will provide college health professionals the

guidance needed to help protect college students against meningococcal

disease.

   

ACHA has been at the forefront of protecting college students against

meningococcal meningitis.  In 1997, the association released the first

recommendations, stating that students consider vaccination and that college

health professionals take a proactive role in providing information and access

to the meningococcal vaccine.

   

In addition to the new college vaccination recommendations, the CDC's ACIP

also approved recommendations that target routine meningococcal immunization

for young adolescents at the pre-adolescent visit (11-12 year olds) and

adolescents at high school entry.

 

Meningococcal meningitis is a rare but potentially fatal bacterial

infection that strikes 1,400 to 3,000 Americans each year and is responsible

for approximately 150 to 300 deaths.  Adolescents and young adults account for

nearly 30 percent of all cases of meningitis in the United States.  In

addition, approximately 100 to 125 cases of meningococcal disease occur on

college campuses each year, and five to 15 students will die as a result.

   

Due to lifestyle factors, such as crowded living situations, bar

patronage, active or passive smoking, irregular sleep patterns, and sharing

personal items, college students living in residence halls are more likely to

acquire meningococcal disease than the general college population.

   

Meningococcal infection is contagious, particularly in crowded conditions

such as residence halls at colleges or universities.  Symptoms may include

fever, stiff neck, rash, nausea, and vomiting.  The disease progresses very

rapidly and can easily be misdiagnosed as the flu.  Students should seek

medical attention if any of these symptoms are present and unusually sudden or

severe.

  

 If not treated early, meningitis can lead to death or permanent

disabilities.  One in five of those who survive will suffer from long-term

side effects, such as brain damage, hearing loss, seizures, or limb

amputation.

 

Source: American College Health Association

   

 

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