Health Services offers meningitis and influenza vaccinations in the fall of each year. The preferred vaccine for Meningitis, Menactra, offers lifetime protection from four of the five types of bacterial meningitis and is strongly recommended for students attending college. Because of living in a communal environment, yearly influenza vaccination also is encouraged. Students can pay for vaccinations by cash, check or charge to student account. Pre-registration is required.
Hepatitis B vaccinations are not available on campus at this time. Students are encouraged to be vaccinated by their personal care provider, Fond du Lac Public Health or local physician’s offices. Tetanus/diphtheria vaccination is available at Health Services per request.
Hepatitis B Facts
About Hepatitis B
Hepatitis B is a serious infectious disease caused by a virus that attacks the liver. The hepatitis B virus (HBV) can cause lifelong infection that leads to cirrhosis (scarring) of the liver, liver cancer or liver failure. There is no cure for hepatitis B, but the infection can be prevented by vaccination.
Vaccination Recommendation for College Students
A vaccine is available to help protect against hepatitis B. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends vaccination of everyone age 18 and younger, and anyone at high risk for hepatitis B. The American College Health Association (ACHA) recommends that all college students be vaccinated.
Symptoms of the Disease
Symptoms of hepatitis B can resemble the flu and may include fever, loss of appetite, low energy, joint pain, cramping, or nausea and vomiting, as well as jaundice (yellow skin or eyes). However, in about 30 percent of cases, hepatitis B causes no symptoms. Approximately one million people are chronic carriers of the disease, meaning they have no symptoms and may not know they are infected but still are able to transmit the disease to others. There is no cure for hepatitis B. Most people can manage symptoms of the disease with treatment, although 5 percent to 10 percent of individuals become chronic carriers of the disease.
Incidence of Hepatitis B
In 2001, an estimated 78,000 Americans were infected with hepatitis B. The majority of these were adolescents and young adults. One in 20 people now have been infected with this disease, and about one-third of those infected do not know the source of their infection. There are approximately 1.25 million chronically infected Americans.
Transmission of the Disease
Hepatitis B is contagious and spreads when the blood or other body fluids of a person with the virus are absorbed into an individual’s blood stream through broken skin or mucous membranes. The hepatitis B virus can live in all body fluids of an infected person, including blood, saliva, semen and vaginal fluids. If can enter the body through cuts, tears or abrasions in the skin and through mucous membranes of the mouth, vagina, anus and eyes. Hepatitis B can be transmitted through sexual contact; during contact sports; by helping someone who is injured; by sharing razors, toothbrushes, pierced earrings or injection drug paraphernalia; or by getting a tattoo or body piercing using non-sterile instruments or needles.
Risk for College Students
College students may be at higher risk for hepatitis B. The highest rate of disease occurs in individuals between the ages of 20 and 49. Living in close quarters, like a college residence hall, may increase the risk of exposure to carriers. College students may be exposed to the virus during sexual contact, during contact sports, getting body piercings or tattoos, sharing needles or razors and other high-risk behaviors. Health sciences students may be exposed to body fluids or tissues from patients with hepatitis B infection. In addition, during college, students may travel abroad to areas where the disease is common.
About the Hepatitis B Vaccine
The hepatitis B vaccine is safe and effective. You cannot get the disease from the vaccine. The most common side effect of the vaccine is soreness at the site of the injection. Vaccination requires a series of three shots over a six-month period. After that, a booster shot is not necessary. The vaccine protects 96 percent of those who complete the three-dose vaccination series.
For More Information
To learn more about hepatitis B and the vaccine, please contact Ripon College Health Services at (920) 748-8141. For more information, you also can visit the Web sites of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Meningococcal disease is a potentially life-threatening bacterial infection that can lead to meningococcal meningitis, an inflammation of the membranes surrounding the brain and spinal cord, or meningococcal septicemia, an infection of the blood. Meningococcal disease, caused by bacteria called Neisseria meningitidis, is the leading cause of bacterial meningitis in older children and young adults in the United States. It strikes 1,400 to 3,000 Americans each year and is responsible for approximately 150 to 300 deaths. Adolescents and young adults account for nearly 30 percent of all cases of meningitis in the United States. In addition, approximately 100 to 125 cases of meningococcal disease occur on college campuses each year, and five to 15 students will die as a result. Evidence shows approximately 70 to 80 percent of cases in the college age group are caused by serogroup C, Y, or W-135, which are potentially vaccine-preventable.
Vaccination Recommendations for College Students
On Feb. 10, 2005, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) voted to recommend that all incoming college freshmen living in dormitories be vaccinated against meningococcal disease. The ACIP also recommended vaccination for all adolescents at high school entry and during pre-adolescent health-care visits (11 to 12 years old). The American College Health Association (ACHA) issued similar immunization recommendations for all first-year students living in residence halls. The ACIP and ACHA recommendations further state that other college students younger than 25 years of age may choose to receive meningococcal vaccination to reduce their risk for the disease. ACHA and ACIP recommendations, coupled with the availability of a new vaccine that may provide longer duration of protection, will help increase rates of immunization against meningococcal disease and will give college health professionals the guidance needed to help protect college students against meningococcal disease.
Meningococcal Disease Caused by Five Strains/Serogroups
Five predominant strains or serogroups of N. meningitidis account for most cases of meningococcal disease. These are A, B, C, Y and W-135. The currently available vaccine protects against four of the five strains (A, C, Y and W-135), and evidence shows approximately 70 percent to 80 percent of cases in the college age group are caused by serogroup C, Y or W-135, which are potentially vaccine-preventable. No vaccine is available for widespread vaccination against serogroup B.
Transmission and Symptoms
Meningococcal disease is contagious and progresses very rapidly. The bacteria are spread person-to-person through the air by respiratory droplets (e.g., coughing, sneezing). The bacteria also can be transmitted through direct contact with an infected person, such as oral contact with shared items like cigarettes or drinking glasses and through kissing. Meningococcal bacteria attach to the mucosal lining of the nose and throat, where they can multiply. When the bacteria penetrate the mucosal lining and enter the bloodstream, they move quickly throughout the body and can cause damage to various organs. Many people in a population can be a carrier of meningococcal bacteria (up to 11 percent) in the nose and back of the throat, and usually nothing happens to a person other than acquiring natural antibodies. Symptoms of meningococcal disease often resemble those of the flu or other minor febrile illness, making it sometimes difficult to diagnose. Symptoms may include high fever, severe headache, stiff neck, rash, nausea, vomiting, fatigue and confusion. Students who notice these symptoms – in themselves, friends, or others – especially if the symptoms are unusually sudden or severe, should contact their college health center or local hospital. If not treated early, meningitis can lead to death or permanent disabilities. One in five of those who survive will suffer from long-term side effects, such as brain damage, hearing loss, seizures or limb amputation.
People at Risk for the Disease, Including College Students
Meningococcal disease can affect people at any age. Because of lifestyle factors, such as crowded living situations, bar patronage, active or passive smoking, irregular sleep patterns, and sharing of personal items, college students living in residence halls are more likely to acquire meningococcal disease than the general college population. In addition to increased risk because of crowded living situations, proximity to a person diagnosed with disease (e.g., being a household contact) also increases one’s risk of disease. Other factors also increase risk, such as a compromised immune system (which might be caused by HIV/AIDS or taking certain chemotherapy or immuno-suppressants) or having no spleen. Even something as simple as a respiratory tract infection may increase the risk of getting the disease. Certain genetic risk factors also may increase susceptibility to infection.
Vaccination to Prevent Meningococcal Disease
Meningococcal vaccination is recommended for all first-year students living in residence halls to protect against four of the five most common strains (or types) of N. meningitidis (A, C, Y and W-135). In people 15 to 24 years of age, 70 percent to 80 percent of cases are caused by potentially vaccine-preventable strains. All other college students younger than 25 who wish to reduce their risk of infection may choose to be vaccinated.
For More Information
For more information on meningococcal disease and the vaccine, please contact Ripon College Health Services at (920) 748-8141. For more information, you also can visit the Web sites of the American College Health Association, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.