Vaccine available for
By Mauryzia Wong
Daily Cougar Staff
UH students who live in residence halls
should consider visiting the Student Health Center for the meningococcal
meningitis vaccine, if
they have not done so already.
Meningococcal meningitis, also known as
meningococcal disease, is a bacterial form of meningitis infection. Viral
meningitis, also known
as aseptic meningitis, is relatively mild
compared to bacterial meningitis.
According to Dr. James Gray, chief physician
at the Health Center, incidents of meningitis infection are higher among
students living inside
residence halls, due to closer and more
direct contact among residents. The types of contact he cited included
sharing cigarettes and
toothbrushes and kissing. Symptoms include
a high fever, headaches, a stiff neck, nausea, vomiting, confusion and
According to the Centers for Disease Control
and Prevention (CDC), viral meningitis is generally less severe and resolves
treatment. Bacterial meningitis can be
treated with antibiotics, but it can also be more severe and may result
in brain damage, hearing loss
or learning disabilities.
A new Texas state law requiring colleges
and universities to provide information relating to bacterial meningitis,
such as the illness'
symptoms, forms of transmission and available
vaccines, combined with last winter's extensive media coverage of an "outbreak"
northeast Houston, has parents concerned.
However, Pam Hoffmeister, chief nurse at the Health Center, said meningitis
has always been
an "ongoing concern" for college campuses.
Gray said that providing information about
meningitis was already part of UH's orientation process. The new state
law does not take effect
until Jan. 1, 2002.
UH has made a continuous effort to inform
students about the illness, its effects and prevention. Hoffmeister said
that the Health Center
posted flyers in the residence halls last
semester to notify students of a presentation about meningitis. "No one
showed up," she said.
She said the students who do get the vaccine
are prompted to do so by concerned parents. She said the vaccine is always
available at the
Health Center, and despite recent attention
to the illness, they have not experienced any supply shortages. The cost
is $72 and is not
covered by most insurance plans.
The vaccine, sold under the brand name
Menomune, is the only one currently available. It lasts for three to five
years. According to the
Health Center, it protects against four
of the most common strains of meningococcus bacteria and is 75 to 85 percent
effective. The strains
are known as A, C, Y and 135. Dr. Gray
said there are 13 to 14 known strains in all.
Dr. Gray said the types of infection in
the Houston area are largely Group C. He said that Group A is more common
in Europe and in
sub-Saharan Africa and that there are
only occasional occurrences of Group Y and 135.
In the United States, about 3,000 cases
of meningitis infection are reported per year. The mortality rate is about
Dr. Gray said the illness was "not any
worse last year than in any of the years before." He noted that there was
only one case of infection
last year among the student population,
and that the individual did not live in the residence halls. He said tuberculosis
is a bigger health