Is Meningitis Common in College?

Dear Dr. Manny,

I’m getting ready for my freshman year at college. My doctor recommended that I get a meningitis vaccine. How common is meningitis in college? How will it affect me? How does it spread? Can I prevent it?

Bacterial meningitis is a very serious infection that can cause death in a matter of hours. Most people recover, but they have permanent damage done to them. Brain damage, hearing loss, and learning disabilities are some of the long term effects of the infection.

Young adults and adolescents are at a higher risk for meningitis. Typically, a case of meningitis happens and then does not spread. But because of the social patterns in college, the close quarters make the spread easier. Simply put, if you put many people and cram them into tiny dorms, then put them under a lot of stress (with classes, tests, papers), you get a perfect candidate for a bacterial infection.

Close contact, face to face contact, and bodily fluids are how the disease travels. People with meningitis can give it to their roommates very easily. Any person who attends a school is naturally at a higher risk for meningitis.

Meningitis affects the body in many ways. It can cause inflammation of the brain, hearing loss, severe headaches, light sensitivity, dizziness, and a need for sleep. Moodiness, no appetite, falling blood pressure, and poison in the blood also occur. From an outward perspective, your skin is blotchy, easily bruised, scarred, the neck is rigid, and the back of the head bulges.

Meningitis can spread through kissing, sharing drinks, sharing utensils, and simply sharing quarters.

Don’t hesitate. Get your meningitis shot before going to college. It will save you some time and trouble.