Students living in dormitories at a greater risk of catching meningitis

Dorm residents beware. There is a dangerous disease spreading in our country, and according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (, students in dorms are at a higher risk of catching it.

This disease inflames the membranes that cover the brain and spinal cord. If left untreated, it could lead to death. The name of this disease is meningitis.

Meningitis has five different sub-types. The type that endangers dorm students is bacterial meningitis.

Bacterial meningitis is spread through respiratory and throat secretions such as coughing, sneezing and kissing.

The effects of bacterial meningitis are so severe that it must be treated as soon as possible. Meningitis can lead to a coma, shock, organ failure and death.

“Meningitis is a very tricky disease, and it is important that a diagnosis be made within the first 24-36 hours,” said Shankar Shetty, the director of Student Health Services at Florida A&M University.

There is a vaccine available for bacterial meningitis.

Shetty said it is imperative for students living in dorms to get the vaccine to prevent contracting the disease.

The vaccine is available at SHS for $94.50. “Spend the money; get the shot. Meningitis is a deadly disease,” Shetty said.

Jennifer Harrison-Hauer, health educator of SHS at FAMU, said the close proximity in which dorm residents live causes them to have a high risk for contracting the disease.

As a prerequisite, students living in dorms must either receive the vaccine or sign a waiver stating they declined the vaccine.

“Vaccination is primary prevention. Primary prevention is the key to prevent meningitis. It is highly effective and safe,” Harrison-Hauer said.

Although most students get the vaccine, Harrison-Hauer said there are quite a few that have declined the vaccine.

Daylan Dufelmeier, a senior philosophy and religion student from Australia, lived in the Paddyfoote dormitory four years ago.

Although Dufelmeier signed the waiver and did not get the vaccine, he thinks other students should.

He said he did not get the vaccine because he didn’t know the dangers of the disease. “I think it is important that students understand what meningitis is so that they are better informed when making the decision to accept or decline the vaccine,” Dufelmeier said.

Some students realize the importance of getting the vaccine. Carlos Franklin, a freshman living in Palmetto North, said he took the vaccine at his doctor’s office back home in Winter Haven.

“I don’t like needles, but I knew how important it was so I took the vaccine,” said the pre-med student.

Angelique Lopez, a freshman living in McGuinn Hall, said her parents and family physician suggested she take the immunization as a precaution. The nursing student from Tampa said she did not want to take chances so she took her vaccine before coming to FAMU. “The best thing is to be safe because you never know what may happen,” Lopez said.

The symptoms of bacterial meningitis are similar to flu symptoms: headache, stiff neck, chills, fever and vomiting.

Harrison-Hauer said all of the symptoms may not be present. “Know your body. If you feel you have the symptoms and they are different than a normal headache, stomach ache or cold, seek emergency care,” she said.

The disease cannot be treated at SHS. In order to test for the disease, a series of testing must be done, including a CAT Scan and a lumbar puncture.

“Due to the costly nature of meningitis, it is strongly recommended to obtain comprehensive medical insurance,” Shetty said.

For students without medical insurance, student insurance information is available through SHS.

For more information on the vaccine for bacterial meningitis, visit, or call SHS at (850) 599-3777.