College students at heightened risk for lethal meningitis B infections

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“College students may be much more likely than others in their age group to develop a rare but potentially fatal type of bacterial infection that can be prevented with vaccination”

January 2, 2019
Reuters

SUMMARY

College students may be much more likely than others in their age group to develop a rare but potentially fatal type of bacterial infection that can be prevented with vaccination, a U.S. study suggests.

Among young adults ages 18 to 24, college students are more than three times as likely to be infected with meningococcal disease serogroup B, researchers found. These bacteria can enter the bloodstream and lead to severe swelling in the brain and spinal cord. Even though the relatively new MenB vaccine helps protect against this strain, it isn’t widely used or recommended for all teens or college students, the study team notes in Pediatrics.

“Our results demonstrate that while the incidence of disease is low in persons aged 18-24 years, college students are at increased risk for serogroup B meningococcal disease compared to non-college students,” said lead study author Dr. Sarah Mbaeyi of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta.

“College students, parents, and providers should be aware of the availability of MenB vaccines,” Mbaeyi said by email.

The disease kills about 10 to 15 percent of people who catch it, previous research has found. Many survivors have lasting impairments like neurological deficits, loss of limbs or digits and hearing loss.

The older MenACWY vaccine covers four other strains of meningococcal disease and is recommended as a routine childhood vaccination as well as for any unvaccinated or under-vaccinated college students living in residence halls, Mbaeyi and her colleagues note.

Due in part to more widespread vaccination, these strains are less common than strains covered by the MenB vaccine, they write.

For the study, the researchers examined national data on all meningococcal disease cases among young adults 18 to 24 years old, including both college students and those not enrolled in school, over a two-year period.

Read the full article “College students at heightened risk for lethal meningitis B infections”

Emma Harrison