What Parents and Students Need to Know About Preventing This Deadly Disease

Dear Pepperdine University Parents and Students,

As you may know, bacterial meningitis has been in the news repeatedly over the last few years as outbreaks have occurred at a number of college campuses including Princeton and UC Santa Barbara. Bacterial meningitis, an acute infection that affects the brain and spinal cord and can rapidly progress to death. Due to the severity of this disease, meningitis requires early diagnosis and swift treatment. Complicating matters, meningitis symptoms closely resemble the flu. The highest incidences of meningitis occur during flu season, which falls between late winter and early spring. When not fatal, bacterial meningitis can lead to permanent disabilities such as hearing loss, brain damage, or loss of limbs.

I would like to reassure all students and their parents/guardians that Pepperdine University has never had an outbreak of bacterial meningitis. However, due to the seriousness of this disease, I believe that you should be well-informed about this potentially life-threatening disease and how best to prevent it.
Recent studies of college outbreaks suggest that First year students living in residence halls have a slightly higher risk of contracting this disease because they live and work in close proximity to one another. Lifestyle also appears to be a risk factor: exposure to active and passive smoking, alcohol consumption, and bar patronage have been shown to increase the danger of contracting meningitis. Due to these findings, both the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the American College Health Association (ACHA) strongly recommend that incoming students be informed of their risk and the potential benefits of vaccination. They further recommend that the vaccine be made easily available to those students who wish to reduce their risk of contracting bacterial meningitis. Here at the Pepperdine Student Health Center, immunization against bacterial meningitis (Menactra) is mandatory for most Seaver students. There are several newly FDA approved bacterial meningitis vaccines which prevent bacterial strains not covered in Menactra.
The American College Health Association recommends that these vaccines be given to students at especially high risk due to certain medical conditions, but they may be given to any student 16-23 years old.

Meningitis is not to be taken lightly; it is my hope that you will seriously consider the severity of this disease, be immunized, and take precautions for avoiding it. I strongly encourage all incoming students to receive the vaccination for meningitis prior to arrival on campus. If this is not possible, the Pepperdine University Student Health Center provides the meningitis vaccine. Please call the Pepperdine University Student Health Center at (310) 506-4316 - prompt 3 - if you have further questions.

Lucy Larson, MD
Medical Director, Student Health Center