A bill has been introduced to the Colorado General Assembly that would require all Colorado institutions of higher education to provide information about meningitis and the available vaccine to students living in campus housing.
Students living in the residence halls have a slightly increased risk of contracting bacterial meningitis, an infection of fluid in the spinal cord and brain, according to a study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention completed in 2000.
Up to 125 cases of bacterial meningitis occur on college campuses around the country, 10 to 15 of which have been deadly, said Lisa Duggan, immunization specialist at the Hartshorn Health Service.
“It’s not a huge number,” Duggan said. “But it’s tragic considering it is a preventable disease.”
Bacterial meningitis is different from the viral strain. The viral strain is less severe and more prevalent on the CSU campus.
Duggan said she could not recall a case of bacterial meningitis in the five years she has been with Hartshorn.
“(Bacterial) meningitis does happen in Colorado,” Duggan said. “We are just lucky that CSU doesn’t see many cases.”
Bacterial meningitis begins with symptoms like the common flu, with the onset of a high fever, headache and stiffness of the neck. As the disease progresses, some patients can begin to have seizures.
If the disease is caught in time, bacterial meningitis can be treated with a combination of antibiotics to reduce the risk of death by 15 percent.
On Feb. 1, Jason Fleishman, from Vail, died one day after graduating from Middlebury College in Vermont. According to a press release from Middlebury College, Fleishman contracted menigo coccemia, a bacterial infection of the blood associated with meningitis.
Officials at Middlebury College said menigo coccemia is not spread by casual contact but can be spread to those who had prolonged contact with the person who contracted the disease.
Last year, a student from Metropolitan State in Denver died after contracting bacterial meningitis. These cases and others around the state have prompted Sen. Steve Johnson to propose a bill that would require uniformity in the amount of available information about meningitis among all higher education schools in Colorado.
Johnson has proposed that each school provide consistent information about the disease and availability of the vaccine to all students who plan to live in campus housing.
Duggan said CSU currently sends letters to parents of incoming freshmen containing information about meningitis and the vaccines offered at Hartshorn. Information and vaccinations are available during Preview and again to students living in the residence halls in the fall.
Menomune, the vaccination for bacterial meningitis is available at Hartshorn for $80. The vaccine lasts three to five years and only one dose is needed for college, Duggan said.