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Meningococcal Meningitis Update

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If your shots are up to date for admission to UL Lafayette, then there are two possibilities: either you’ve already been vaccinated for meningococcal meningitis, or you’ve signed a waiver stating that you understand the risks of not being vaccinated. Meningococcal meningitis is a bacterial infection that is spread by eating after, drinking after, kissing, or otherwise sharing the germs with someone who is carrying the infection. It’s a rare infection, but potentially fatal, which is why the immunization is required for entry into institutes of higher learning in the state of Louisiana. Standard meningococcal vaccine doesn’t protect against all strains of the bacteria, though, so even if you’ve been vaccinated there’s still a possibility that you might get sick if you’re exposed to a strain that’s not in the vaccine.
Now there’s a new kid on the block to protect you from this deadly disease. It’s called serogroup B meningococcal vaccine, and it covers the strain of meningococcus that the standard vaccine doesn’t cover. The serogroup B strain of meningococcus is a tough customer, so unlike the standard vaccine, this vaccine must be given more than once for full protection. There are two brands of this vaccine: Trumenba, given in a three dose series over 6 months, and Bexsero, given in two doses one month apart. They vary slightly in their composition, but both seem to be equally protective.
One of these vaccines is highly recommended for people at high risk for meningococcal disease (along with the standard meningococcal vaccine). High risk groups include people with immune system disorders, people who don’t have a spleen due to disease or surgery, and anyone at risk of direct contact with serogroup B meningococcus (like researchers or people living in a community with a known case of group B meningococcal meningitis). These vaccines are also approved by the FDA for people between the ages of 10 and 25 years who are at low to moderate risk, at you and your health care provider’s discretion.
The next question you’re probably asking is, “Do I need to get this vaccine?” The answer to that question is still under debate. If you’re a member of one the high risk groups, you should definitely get vaccinated. If you’re not high risk but you want the highest level of protection from this potentially deadly disease, schedule an appointment with your health care provider to discuss the pros and cons, or call Student Health Services at 482-5464 for more information. We can refer you to a local provider for vaccination if needed.

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