University Health and Counseling Services
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Health Services

Notice of Risk Associated with Meningococcal Disease and Hepatitis B

Wisconsin Act 61 of 2003 requires that annually, each student residing in a college or university residence hall 1) be informed of the risks of meningococcal disease and hepatitis B, 2) be required to report whether they have been immunized against either disease and 3) when not immunized against one or both illnesses, be required to sign a waiver of vaccination indicating they know the risks, and choose not to be vaccinated.

Meningococcal meningitis is a serious disease involving inflammation of the coverings of the brain and spinal cord. Even when treated, death occurs in about 10% of cases and permanent disability in about 20%. The disease caused by various strains of the meningococcal bacteria occurs about 1.44 times per 100,000 in the general population and 1.74 times per 100,000 students enrolled in 4-year colleges. Risk in the college age group is highest among students living in residence halls, occurring about 3.24 times per 100,000 compared to 0.96 times per 100,000 for students living off-campus. This disease is spread mainly by sharing of secretions from the mouth or nose, which can occur from kissing, sharing cigarettes, drinks or food, using the same eating utensils, or inhaling coughed secretions of another person.

Two meningococcal vaccines are available in the US.

Meningococcal polysaccharide vaccine (MPSV4) has been available since the 1970's and Meningococcal conjugate vaccine (MCV4) was licensed in 2005. Both vaccines are 90% effective in preventing 4 of the 5 types of meningococcal disease. Even though meningococcal vaccines are not 100% effective they do provide protection for many people. The MCV4 vaccine is expected to give better, longer-lasting protection and to be more effective in preventing person to person spread of the disease than the MPSV4 vaccine.

You can receive the meningococcal vaccine at University Health & Counseling Services. It is administered by a single injection. Please call 472-1300 for current cost or to make an appointment.

If you have been exposed to someone you know who has meningitis, get medical assistance immediately even though you were vaccinated. Antibiotics used to prevent the spread of meningococcus are required for known exposure even if you have received the vaccine. If you experience symptoms like a fever of 100.4 degrees or higher, stiff neck, headache, confusion, get immediate assistance at the nearest medical facility.

For more information visit: Meningococcal Disease and College Students or Meningococcal Conjugate Vaccine Recomendations

Hepatitis B

Hepatitis B is a viral illness that attacks the liver. About 10% of people become infected over a lifetime. While the initial illness is rarely fatal, it can lead to serious liver damage known as cirrhosis, which can lead to death. The infecting virus is transmitted through sharing of body fluids, including saliva, blood, vaginal secretions, and semen. The most common means of transmission are sharing eating or drinking utensils, inhaling the cough of another person, kissing, and sexual intercourse. Infection can also be transmitted by getting tattoos, acupuncture, or piercings and, rarely, from transfusion with infected blood.

Hepatitis B vaccine is available at University Health & Counseling Services. It is administered by three injections, the first two a month apart and the third four months later. To attain proper protection, it is important to receive all three injections. Call 472-1300 for an appointment, cost or other information.

Word of Caution: No vaccine is 100% effective. Engaging in risky behavior, i.e. sharing body fluids with others, makes us susceptible to many illnesses. Therefore students should be cautioned against engaging in any of the risk behaviors indicated above. Infections can be spread even when the infected person is not feeling sick. There is no substitute for good judgment.


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