University of Oregon requires many things of its students, but the latest may be vaccines against meningococcal and other meningococcal diseases.
As of January 2016, 36 states and the District of Columbia have implemented a policy that requires either education of college students about meningococcal vaccines or proof of meningococcal vaccination for attendance, University Health Center Executive Director LeAnn Gutierrez said.
Oregon wasn’t one of them, but Gutierrez said the university is following CDC’s lead in the process of considering the change in its immunization policy.
“UO is in the process of updating the required immunization policy and is recommending the UO require proof of MenACWY (MCV4)—which means students under the age of 22 would need to provide documentation of one dose of meningococcal quadrivalent given within five years of their anticipated first day of University of Oregon attendance,” Gutierrez said.
The result of not getting these vaccines can be rather deadly.
When Lauren Jones was taken into PeaceHealth Sacred Heart Medical Center University District in February 2015, she was diagnosed with an “influenza-like illness,” with symptoms such as coughing and high fever. She was given Tylenol and ibuprofen before being sent back to her residence hall.
The Oregon acrobatics and tumbling athlete died in her room hours later from the fatal bacteria called meningococcemia, or Meningitis B. Jones was one of six confirmed cases of Meningitis B but the only one who died during last year’s outbreak.
In 2012, Lill Pagenstecher, a member of the Chi Omega sorority, also died from bacterial meningitis.
Meningitis B and other meningococcal diseases are not new to the University of Oregon or other college campuses around the country. Out of five serogroups, Meningitis B is by far the most deadly strain for young adults who attend colleges, due to large populations living in a close quarters.
Princeton reported nine cases of Meningitis B in February 2015. Providence College in Rhode Island confirmed two cases at the same time.
In Oregon, Meningitis B accounts for 55 percent of the cases, according to a Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.
Meningococcal diseases are generally transmitted through the exchange of saliva, but not as contagious as the common cold or the flu. A person would need to have close contact with the patient for several hours over a week in order to contract the illness. Its symptom shares some similarities with the flu, including fever, headache, stiff neck, confusion, drowsiness and rash.
Despite its fatal nature, Meningitis B can be prevented with vaccination, which was recently made available in 2014, the Centers for Disease Control said. In response to the outbreak in 2015, UO offered emergency antibiotics and conducted large-scale vaccination events for students.
Over 19,000 doses were administered for Meningitis B to UO students, Gutierrez said.
Gutierrez also said it’s impossible to predict the damage of any outbreak, but the university is taking steps to educate students of the fatal consequences of meningococcal diseases.
According to the Emerald report in 2015, the price to get vaccinated on campus is $170 and is covered by most insurance providers.
“Some insurance companies will cover Meningitis B as preventive care when obtained at an in-network provider,” Gutierrez also said. “Eligible UO students can obtain the vaccine at the University Health Center and have charges sent to their student accounts.”