Health Officials: Living In Dorms Increases Risk Of Bacterial Meningitis | Connecticut Public Radio

Health Officials: Living In Dorms Increases Risk Of Bacterial Meningitis

Dec 6, 2018

A student at Central Connecticut State University is being treated for bacterial meningitis after becoming seriously ill. According to the university, the student is recovering and people who were in close contact with the student were given a course of antibiotics as a precautionary measure.

According to the state Department of Public Health, the last time a college student in the state came down with bacterial meningitis was in 2016.

Meningitis outbreaks on college campuses are rare, in part because students who choose to live in dormitories are required to be vaccinated for four strains of meningococcal meningitis. The CCSU student contracted a strain not covered in that vaccination according to DPH.

“There is this other strain called "type B," said state epidemiologist Dr. Matthew Cartter. “Scientists struggled to figure out how to make a vaccine that would cover that one. And finally about five years ago, two vaccines became available for this meningococcal strain called serogroup B.”

The vaccine for the serogroup B meningitis is currently recommended for college students but not required under guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, but that may change.

“We've been dealing as a country with these meningitis B outbreaks for the last three or four years," said Cartter, “and this is a real active area of discussion, as to whether to add this to the required list.”

Dr. Cartter says unlike the cold or the flu, it is extremely hard to contract meningococcal meningitis. Unfortunately, the college dormitory is one of those settings conducive to spreading the disease.

“People at most risk are people who are in close contact with people who are carrying the bacteria for a period of time” said Cartter. “For example, roommates in a dormitory, you have people that are together for hours if not days.”

Cartter is recommending that college students get the meningococcal B vaccine along with the other required vaccines. Bacterial meningitis is a serious disease that can cause brain damage hearing loss and death in one out of every 10 people who become infected, according to the CDC.