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Sharing lipstick

Meningitis is spread through direct contact with an infected person. Examples include sharing lipstick or beverage containers.

Photographer: Caleigh Bourgeois

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OHIO launches meningitis awareness campaign


Ohio University recently launched an informational campaign aimed at educating students about bacterial meningitis. With its focus on prevention and symptom recognition, the campaign seeks to decrease meningitis occurrences on campus by 50 percent.

Since January 2009, there have been eight cases of meningitis on Ohio University’s Athens campus. Due to the unusual genetic similarity of these infections, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) classified the cases as an outbreak in March. In one case, the disease ultimately led to the death of an Ohio University student.

“Meningitis is a serious life-threatening disease, so it is extremely valuable to have a campaign that educates students,” said Vice President for Student Affairs Kent Smith. “Providing information about meningitis is key to lowering the amount of cases and getting students to seek health care sooner if they suspect they may have meningitis.”

OHIO’s meningitis campaign draws upon a wide range of educational tools, including residence hall programming, informational videos, a Facebook-themed poster campaign, Compass articles and a strong visual presence at Baker University Center.

The campaign is the most recent addition to Ohio University's HealthAlerts series -- which aims to proactively empower the university community with knowledge and resources to address the critical, less-talked-about health and safety issues facing today's college students, faculty and staff.

To view the University's meningitis information page, click here.

The CDC estimates that at any given time, approximately 10 percent of the U.S. population carries the bacteria that causes meningitis. College students – particularly freshmen living in residence halls – are considered at risk for contracting the disease.

For this reason, it is important that students understand the causes and symptoms of meningitis, said Terry Koons, associate director of OHIO’s Campus Involvement Center in the Division of Student Affairs.

Koons, who has been working to develop the University’s meningitis campaign with the Office of the Dean of Students, said there are many misconceptions about the disease among students – specifically relating to its transmission. 

“People view that if they are vaccinated they are safe, but the vaccine does not cover all strains,” he said.

While the vaccine covers four out of the five strains of bacterial meningitis, it does not cover the strain most prevalent on campus, according to Athens City-County Health Commissioner Dr. James Gaskell.

Because the majority of students who contracted meningitis lived on campus, OHIO’s campaign will target the University’s residence halls. Students will also have the opportunity to speak with local health care officials about the disease at the Student Health Fair on March 8th at Baker University Center.

“Overall, we want students to be aware of the risk factors of meningitis so that students can protect themselves,” Koons said.

For more information on bacterial meningitis, visit http://www.ohio.edu/healthalerts/meningitis/.

 

CDC puts OHIO study on hold

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently cancelled plans for a spring visit to Ohio University’s Athens campus to study meningitis carriage rates. The study was put on indefinite hold due to a lack of funding.

In addition to general carriage rates, the study intended to focus on the carriage rate of group B meningitis – the only strain that is not covered by the current vaccine. Group B meningitis has been the most prevalent strain of meningitis at Ohio University.

The CDC first came to Ohio University last March to investigate a meningitis outbreak on campus. In the case-control study, the CDC asked 43 questions of previously infected and non-infected students to determine behavior related risk-factors.

The investigation found that students who frequently engaged in high-risk behaviors, such as drinking alcohol and kissing multiple people, were more likely to acquire meningitis, according to Athens City-County Health Commissioner Dr. James Gaskell.