It’s that time of the year yet again when students make a beeline to gain admission into universities abroad. Vaccination against bacterial meningitis is one of the essential requirements as you set out to fulfill your foreign dream
Riya was thrilled. She had got accepted for a master’s course in the college of her choice. In a few months she would be off to USA to fulfil her dreams. As she started to get her checklist ready for things that would be required she came across a guideline, “All students must get themselves vaccinated against meningitis. They must carry along a proof of the same with them on the day of their arrival in the USA.” This statement surprised Riya. Meningitis? What’s that? And why should I get a vaccination done and where?
Every year thousands of Indians travel abroad to pursue their higher education. If you are one of those many students travelling in the next few months, you might be aware of such a requirement.
What is meningitis?
Meningitis refers to the inflammation of the protective membranes covering the brain and spinal cord. Meningococcal disease is caused by the bacterium Neisseria meningitidis. It is said that about 10 per cent of people have this type of bacteria in the back of their nose and throat. It is when the Neisseria meningitidis bacteria attacks the body that is causes certain illnesses, which are known as meningococcal diseases.
According to Dr Sudhir Kumar, consultant neurologist, Apollo Hospital, “Meningitis is an ailment of the central nervous system. It is an infection of the covering of brain known as the meninges. It is commonly known as brain fever. In a normally healthy person, meningitis can occur due to three reasons — Bacteria, TB and viral infection. Bacterial meningitis can occur in different ages and may be due to different bacteria such as Ecoli.
In school going children and early adolescents, pneumococcal meningitis may occur. The bacterium is also the main cause of pneumonia. In case of someone suffering from ailments such as AIDS, meningitis due to other causes like fungal infections may occur.”
Effects of meningitis
An epidemic is rare especially when early treatment is provided to the person suffering from the ailment. Dr Sudhir says, “Early treatment not only helps cure the ailment but also provides protection against any deficits that it may cause such as learning disabilities, brain damage etc.”
Meningitis and college
The stress on getting vaccinated against the meningitis bacteria is even more when you are living in a dormitory or a crowded area.
For this reasons many universities abroad are now stressing on the importance of the students being vaccinated against this virus. The virus tends to spread through the exchange of respiratory and throat secretions.
They can spread through sneezing, touch, air, sharing handkerchiefs etc. Unhealthy lifestyles, smoking and sleeping conditions may also contribute. According to statistics, those who live in dormitories are more at a risk to contract the disease than the other students.
According to the American College Health Association, “all first-year students living in residence halls should receive the meningococcal vaccine. The ACHA recommendations further state that other college students under 25 years of age may choose to receive meningococcal vaccination to reduce their risk for the disease.”
According to Dr Sudhir says,”Vaccinations are available for both bacterial meningitis and TB but not for that caused by viral infections. Usually at birth we are administered BCG which provides protection against brain TB. Generally vaccination against pneumococcal meningitis require a single dose. These vaccinations are proven to be safe, although a person who has been vaccinated may suffer from mild fever. But usually there is no major problem.”
A booster shot can be taken at any time but there should be an 8-week-interval between the doses. When it comes to the City, the Institute of Preventive Medicine in Narayanguda is authorised to provide vaccinations.