Loading up the car this month to deliver a son or daughter to college?
The Minnesota Department of Health thinks your student may be missing something.
August is Meningitis Awareness Month in Minnesota, and the week of Aug. 11-17 focuses on “Off to College: Young Adults” to remind families that vaccinations don’t come to an end when children leave home.
College freshmen, especially those who live in dormitories, face a slightly increased risk of contracting meningitis, according to the Department of Health — apparently because they come into contact with many new people and new germs and face heavy exposure in the crowded atmosphere of student housing.
“Our concern is that there are maybe a number of folks heading to college who may not have received the [meningitis] vaccine,” said Kristen Ehresmann, director of Infectious Disease Epidemiology Prevention and Control for the Health Department.
Meningococcal infections are rare but serious diseases that can lead to death.
About 15 percent of people who survive the infection are left with disabilities that can range from deafness to brain damage and amputated limbs. The most common form of the disease is meningitis.
Although the disease is rare, Minnesota recorded 12 cases in 2012 and eight cases so far this year.
Minnesota requires that anyone who enrolls in college in the state show proof of vaccination for five diseases: measles, mumps, rubella, tetanus and diphtheria.
According to the CDC, about 10 percent of people have meningococcal bacteria in the back of their noses and throats — and yet show no signs or symptoms of the disease.
An infected person can spread the disease by coughing, kissing or sharing a drink — and other activities sometimes associated with dorm life.
“We want to make sure that young adults are protected,” Ehresmann said.
Read more about meningitis at health.state.mn.us.