This is an archived article. For the latest news, go to the Advance Homepage.
For more archives, go to the Advance Archive/Search Page.

Meningitis Vaccine Offered
October 4, 1999

Student Health Services will offer a meningococcal vaccination clinic to students on Wednesday, October 6, from 4 to 11 p.m. in the lobby of the Student Union.

The clinic is optional and is being offered in response to a number of requests from students and parents for the vaccine. The inoculation is effective against four strains of meningococcal disease, including strain C, which was recently contracted by a UConn freshman from out-of-state.

The vaccination should provide protection for three years. It will not be helpful, however, in protecting anyone exposed to the current case of meningococcal disease, said Michael Kurland, director of student health services. Students who were in close contact with the ill student have been contacted and offered preventative antibiotics. A vaccination at this point would not protect them from this exposure, he said.

"The current instance of meningococcal disease on campus has raised the visibility of this disease and the availability of the vaccine," Kurland said. "So many people have been asking for it that we thought offering a clinic on campus would be convenient for students."

The one case of meningococcal disease at the University is considered an isolated instance of the disease by the federal Centers for Disease Control. Should an outbreak (three or more cases) occur, the CDC could require the University to vaccinate students. Such an outbreak did occur in 1993, and the University vaccinated more than 13,000 students to prevent spread of the disease.

Meningococcal disease is not spread through casual contact. It is spread through oral and nasal secretions, through kissing or by sharing cups, toothbrushes, or cigarettes. Generally, it affects people under the age of 30.

The University, working with state and local health officials, has notified the campus community, through an e-mail to nearly 19,000 UConn account holders, about the ill student and the immunization clinic. Student health services officials also met several times with students who live on the ill student's floor in Litchfield Hall, a North Campus residence hall. A choice of two oral antibiotics was offered to those students and to others who were in close contact with the student, who is recovering in a Massachusetts Hospital.

Meningococcal disease is a serious illness. More than 40 cases a year of the disease are reported in Connecticut, according to the state Department of Public Health.

UConn for several years has recommended to incoming students that they discuss the vaccine with their physicians. In addition, the University's student health services keeps some vaccine on hand for students who request it.

The vaccine has been somewhat controversial. The Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta do not recommend that it be routinely used because of the rarity of the disease, the expense of the vaccine, and the fact that the vaccine is less than 100 percent effective. However, the American College Health Association has urged students to be vaccinated because of the seriousness of the illness and because people who are in close quarters, such as residence halls, day care centers and barracks, are at higher risk of contracting the disease.

The vaccinations at the one-day clinic are available on a walk- in basis, with no appointment required. Students must have a valid UConn ID, and $75 or a Physicians Health Services or Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield insurance card. Students may add the $75 charge to their fee bill account. Accommodations will be made for students who are unable to pay.

Student Health Services has set up a hotline number for parents and students seeking information: (860) 486-6900. Information is also on the Web at Student Health Services and UConn News.

Karen Grava