Health Center says students not at huge risk, apprehension remains
Due to a nationwide shortage of Menactra, the new meningitis vaccine, Wardenburg Health Center is unable to offer the shot to students at this time.
“There is a nationwide shortage of the vaccine, which I don’t really understand; many underestimated how much it would be needed or the popularity,” said Martha Johns, director of Clinical Outreach Services at Wardenburg.
Meningitis is the inflammation of the lining around the brain and spinal cord and is usually caused by fungal, bacterial or viral infections. It is more common among those living in close quarters such as residence halls.
Though there is only an average of one case of meningitis every few years at CU, the vaccine for the disease is still recommended for all students.
According to Sandra Sonoda, a registered nurse at Wardenburg, any oral secretion can carry the disease. People who share toothbrushes, ChapStick or drinks are all at risk. Sonoda mentioned the last person at CU infected by meningitis was said to have caught the disease from a game of beer pong last spring.
“Meningitis vaccine is something we recommend, especially for students living in residence hall housing or in fraternities and sororities,” Johns said.
According to Johns, CU will be receiving 40 doses of Menactra the last week of September. She says they should receive more doses at the end of October, but it’s hard to predict at this point how many.
“At Wardenburg, without a shortage, we usually administer about 100 to 150 doses of the vaccine at the beginning of the year, but this year, we have only administered about 70 since summer,” Sonoda said.
Sonoda was notified of the shortage in early August.
“I anticipated that it was coming, so I ordered more, but we don’t want so much around so it expires. Now we are on backorder,” Sonoda said.
Johns claims that students are not at a huge risk, but there is still some apprehension among students.
“It concerns me that meningitis is becoming more widespread but it concerns me even more that CU isn’t fully prepared,” said sophomore psychology major John Christensen.
The Meningitis Research Foundation lists the most common symptoms of meningitis as severe vomiting, dislike of bright lights, headache, confusion, rash, a stiff neck and seizures.
There are other ways to prevent meningitis without the vaccination. Boulder County Communicable Disease Control Center encourages people to wash their hands frequently and thoroughly, avoid sharing drinks, maintain a strong immune system and cover their mouths when coughing or sneezing.
Sonoda said meningitis is more of a seasonal disease and cases are seen more in the wintertime and not at the beginning of the year.
“Get the shot when the mass clinic happens,” Sonoda said.
The flu and meningitis vaccination clinic is scheduled to run at the end of October or the beginning of November, but Johns said she is unsure if the meningitis vaccine will be able to be offered this year due to the shortage.
“People don’t need to panic,” Johns said. “Though we recommend the vaccine, meningitis is still very rare.”