Saturday, December 7, 2013

Meningitis and College: Parents need to Act

Parents with college age kids. Do you know Meningitis? There are two outbreaks going on now, one at Princeton and one at UCSB. There is a vaccine, but only for one type - Type A. There is one for Type B (see link) that Princeton is racing to offer. Meningitis can be very deadly and some that get infected loose hands or feet, but they live. Note, a Lacrosse Player at UCSB just lost his feet, and that is something that the University has failed to tell parents about in their communications (our son goes to UCSB).

Get to know this infection. It can be a matter of life or death.

Meningitis and College
Most of the cases of Meningitis occur at College, when your student lives in a Dorm. Students in Dorms live in closer contact, which often lack stringent cleaning in common areas.

Also, educate your student about NOT sharing cups (ever). This is a vital part of stopping the spread. Also, help them understand the symptoms and not to wait to seek treatment (it can attack very very quickly).

Parents and Meningitis
Finally, as a parent, you have some due diligence to do when searching for a college. If you have a high schooler, when you are doing your due diligence, you need to find out how often and how well the dorms are cleaned. There is a correlation. 

For students that live in off-campus housing and/or a fraternity or sorority house, infection rates are lower because the students are not in such close proximity. So, my advice is to do the following:
  1. Due better due diligence on Dorm Selection. It might impact your final selection of a College or University.
  2. Ask questions if Dorm cleaning is being enhanced. How often are common areas in the dorm cleaned?
  3. Find out if the Medical Center near Campus is trained on recognizing Meningitis.
  4. Vaccinate your Student (state law in NJ, PA, CA). Look at the new vaccine for Type A.
  5. Get your student out of the dorms after freshman year.
So don't mess around. Get smart about Meningitis. Start now and find out about the dorms at any college you are seriously considering. Educate your student too. Use common sense. If when on a tour, it doesn't look like the bathrooms are that clean, think twice. 

EDITORS NOTE: I dealt with this in the early 2000s at Penn State (I was House Corp President of my Fraternity). The University President at the time, Graham Spanier, didn't want to offer Meningitis shots at a reduced cost (like other Big Ten Schools did). So we got the PA Legislature to make it a state law to require them. Our brothers at Sigma Chi were all encouraged to get shots and we never had an issue...

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