ATLANTA - The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that college freshman, particularly those residing in dormitories, consider vaccination against meningococcal disease. The recommendations came as part of the CDC's new college health vaccination policy, published in a recent issue of the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.
According to the CDC, these young people face a modestly increased risk for meningococcal disease relative to other young people. Surveillance data for the 1998-1999 school year showed that among the approximately 590,000 freshmen who live in dormitories, the rate of meningococcal disease was 4.6 per 100,000, higher than any age group in the population other than children younger than 2, but lower than the threshold of 10 per 100,000 recommended for initiating meningococcal vaccination campaigns.
During 1994-1998, approximately two-thirds of cases among people ages 18-23 were caused by serogroups C, Y or W135 and thus were potentially preventable through vaccination.
"Publication of this policy for the first time helps advance awareness of meningococcal disease among college students and encourages more students, particularly college freshmen, to consider vaccination," said David Spilker, founder and president of the Meningitis Foundation of America (MFA).
"We are pleased that CDC has finally published its recommendation regarding college students and the increasing threat of meningococcal disease on campus," said Spilker. "Given the seriousness of this disease among college students, the MFA regards the new policy as an important, necessary step toward minimizing the threat of the disease on campuses."
The recommendations, approved by the CDC's Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) in October l999, state that those who provide medical care to college freshmen, particularly those residing in dormitories, should provide information about meningococcal disease and the benefits of vaccination to these students and their parents. Each college should also inform incoming and/or current freshmen about meningococcal disease and the availability of a safe and effective vaccine.
The recommendations also state that immunization should be provided or made easily available to these students and other undergraduate students wishing to reduce their risk for the disease.
"Once college students - and their parents - are aware that a vaccine is available to help protect against this deadly disease, our hope is that they will consider immunization before heading off to college this fall," said Spilker.
Meningococcal meningitis has occurred more frequently in recent years among teenagers and young adults. According to the MFA, the disease strikes about 3,000 Americans each year. Death occurs in approximately 10% of cases - about 300 Americans annually. An estimated 100 to 125 cases occur each year among college students, resulting in five to 15 student deaths.
For more information:
- CDC. Meningococcal disease and college students: recommendations of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices. MMWR. 2000;49(RR07):11-20.
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