As summer begins to wind down, many parents will be sending their kids off to college, and I will be one of them. My19-year-old son is my first kid leaving home for school, and of course, I want to make sure he is safe and healthy.

He recently asked me about getting the vaccine for meningitis. So I did a little research on it and the more I learned about Meningitis among college kids, the more I was convinced to get him vaccinated against this serious bacterial infection. It is done in two shots about a month apart to protect him from various types of meningitis.  If you have a child heading off to college like me, here are some important facts...Meningitis B is  uncommon, but it can be a life-threatening infection that can lead to inflammation of the lining of the brain and spinal cord. It can come on suddenly and progress within hours. Students ages 18 to 24 are about 4 times more likely to contract meningitis B than their peers who are not in school. It can spread through saliva, kissing, sneezing and being in close quarters with other people, so remind your child not to share any drinks or food and avoid anyone who is coughing or sneezing. The decision to get your college student vaccinated is personal but it is good to know the facts.  For more information and links to sites on meningitis,

Summer is almost over, and college is around the corner. As first-year students are preparing for a new phase in their lives, it is an emotional time for parents seeing their loved ones getting ready to move onto campus. However, parents should be aware of the infectious diseases that spread around universities. Specifically, they should be cautious of the most common and dangerous illness college students are at high risk of getting: the meningococcal disease, or most commonly known as meningitis.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), meningitis is caused by bacteria called Neisseria meningitidis, which is often referred to as meningococcus. This bacterium causes the meningococcal disease, which infects the spinal cord fluid and the fluid surrounding the brain. This can result in devastating effects such as deafness, nervous system problems, or brain damage. It can also be fatal as death can occur in a few hours.

Incoming students have a high risk of getting the illness because of the proximity with large groups of people. Specifically, the exposure or transfer of saliva or spit during coughing, sneezing, or kissing is how the disease spreads. In fact, a 2000 CDC study found that students who live in dormitories are 9 to 23 times more likely to get the infection than those who live in different accommodations.

Fortunately, the meningococcal disease can be treated with the meningococcal conjugate (MenACWY) vaccine. Beginning at an early age from 11 to 12 is when children should get their first MenACWY injection. Then, they should get a booster dose at 16-years-old for additional protection before going to college. However, it is also recommended that university students get a serogroup B meningococcal vaccine because of recent outbreaks of the serogroup B meningococcal disease across several campuses.  

So, with school almost in session, parents should make sure that their children are vaccinated, and have signed and completed all required medical forms before the assigned deadline. This can be done by checking on the website or contacting the student health services of their respective college. And, to learn more about the meningococcal vaccine, make sure to contact your child’s health care provider. Or, visit www.cdc.gov/meningococcal/index.html for more information.