College students are at particular risk for a very deadly form of meningitis because they live in close quarters and as a result, if one person contracts meningitis caused by the bacteria neisseria meningitidis others are very much at risk.
This type of bacterial meningitis comes on quickly and often teens and young adults go from feeling fine to being in the ICU on life support within 24 hours. It is highly contagious and highly deadly if you aren’t protected. The symptoms include fever, headache, severe fatigue, and often a purple, bruise-like rash on the legs. It is highly lethal and the few who survive often lose limbs, hearing, or cognitive abilities.
Any person in contact with someone diagnosed with this form of meningitis should receive a short course (sometimes a single dose) of medication to eradicate the bacteria from their nasal passages and decrease both their own risk of contracting the illness and unknowingly spreading the bacteria to others. Even if your child has received the vaccine, if exposed to someone with the illness taking the medication is a must.
Before heading off to college this fall, make sure that your young adult has been to the doctor and gotten a meningitis shot called Menactra. It is routinely given at age 11 but a booster is needed around age 16 to carry the immunity through the college years.
I know there’s a lot to do in the short weeks of summer between graduation and moving off to college, but be sure to check with your pediatrician and make sure your teenager’s vaccine status is up to date. If not high tail it to the office to get covered.