FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
American College Health Association
American College Health Association Issues New Meningococcal Disease Immunization Recommendations for First-year Students Living in Residence Halls
ACHA's decision is consistent with recent recommendations approved by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) to immunize all incoming college freshmen living in dormitories (or residence halls) against meningococcal disease.
The new recommendations strengthen ACHA's previous recommendations, which until now only encouraged health care providers to educate college students, particularly first-year students who plan to live in residence halls, and their parents about meningococcal disease and the potential benefits of vaccination.
ACHA and ACIP's new recommendations further state that other college students under 25 years of age may choose to receive meningococcal vaccination to reduce their risk for the disease.
"ACHA is pleased that a new meningococcal conjugate vaccine is now available and that ACIP provided a firm recommendation for immunization of first-year students living in residence halls," said James Turner, MD, chair of ACHA's Vaccine Preventable Diseases Committee and executive director of the department of student health at the University of Virginia. "This is a significant step in preventing meningococcal disease and will help college health professionals protect college students against this potentially deadly infection."
The new conjugate vaccine (unlike the previously recommended polysaccharide vaccine) has the potential to provide longer duration of protection and herd immunity against meningococcal infection; which means that by immunizing a large proportion of the population, even those who are not vaccinated will likely be protected. The FDA approved the vaccine for use among persons aged 11 to 55 years.
ACHA and ACIP's new recommendation, coupled with the availability of the conjugate vaccine, will help increase rates of immunization against meningococcal disease, and will provide college health professionals the guidance needed to help protect college students against meningococcal disease.
ACHA has been at the forefront of protecting college students against meningococcal meningitis. In 1997, the association released the first recommendations, stating that students consider vaccination and that college health professionals take a proactive role in providing information and access to the meningococcal vaccine.
In addition to the new college vaccination recommendations, the CDC's ACIP also approved recommendations that target routine meningococcal immunization for young adolescents at the pre-adolescent visit (11-12 year olds) and adolescents at high school entry.
About Meningococcal Disease
Meningococcal meningitis is a rare, but potentially fatal, bacterial infection that 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.
Due to lifestyle factors, such as crowded living situations, bar patronage, active or passive smoking, irregular sleep patterns, and sharing personal items, college students living in residence halls are more likely to acquire meningococcal disease than the general college population.
Meningococcal infection is contagious, particularly in crowded conditions such as residence halls at colleges or universities. Symptoms may include fever, stiff neck, rash, nausea, and vomiting. The disease progresses very rapidly and can easily be misdiagnosed as the flu. Students should seek medical attention if any of these symptoms are present and unusually sudden or severe.
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.
About the American College Health Association
The American College Health Association, the nation's principal advocate and leadership organization for college and university health, represents a diverse membership that provides and supports the delivery of health care and prevention and wellness services for the nation's 16 million college students. The association provides advocacy, education, communications, products, and services, as well as promotes research and culturally competent practices to enhance its members' ability to advance the health of all students and the campus community. For more information, visit www.acha.org.