Monday, August 27, 2001 Volume 66, Issue 4


 
 









 

Vaccine available for UH students

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 sleepiness.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), viral meningitis is generally less severe and resolves without specific
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" in
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 10 percent.

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
threat.
 
 
 

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