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WSU students urged to get meningitis shot

Student was diagnosed with disease in December

Washington State University is advising students on the Pullman campus, particularly those living in dense residential housing, to be vaccinated against meningitis.

The advisory follows the hospitalization of a 19-year-old student who was diagnosed with bacterial meningitis in early December. That student is recovering at home, according to a statement Thursday from the university.

There currently are no other reported cases of meningitis at WSU.

However, the December infection appears to have come after a case of meningococcal pneumonia in the fall, said Dr. Bruce Wright, executive director of WSU Health and Wellness Services.

“The first case, which occurred back in September, was a bit unusual in that it was a case of acute pneumonia, not meningitis,” Wright said.

But after the pneumonia patient was released from the hospital, blood tests revealed the presence of Neisseria meningitidis serotype Y, the same strain as in the December case.

Both students had received the meningitis vaccine, Menactra, three years before becoming infected.

“Unfortunately, all meningitis vaccinations tend to lose their effectiveness over time,” Wright said.

Public health experts recommend booster vaccinations for students vaccinated more than two years ago, particularly those living in close quarters.

Meningitis is the infectious inflammation of tissues that cover the brain and spinal cord. Meningococcal meningitis is transferred through saliva by sharing eating, drinking or smoking materials, for example, or by sexual contact.

Symptoms may include headaches, stiff neck, high fever, rash, nausea, vomiting and joint pain.

Meningitis vaccine is available through private health care providers and the public health department. Students also may be vaccinated at WSU Health and Wellness Services.