Aug. 16, 2004

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Contact: Todd Cohen, University Relations, (785) 864-8858.

KU strongly encourages students in living groups to get meningitis vaccine

LAWRENCE -- The University of Kansas' Student Health Services at Watkins Memorial Health Center today announced a campaign to strongly encourage students living in group housing to receive the meningitis vaccine.

An email message is being sent to all students Monday and 8,000 fliers are being distributed on campus. Over the first few weeks of school, the Student Health Services staff will be making numerous personal presentations about the vaccine and meningitis to staff and students in the university's student housing complexes, fraternities and sororities and to staff at a private residence hall adjacent to campus.

Incoming freshmen have already received information about the vaccine during the admissions process and summer orientation sessions as well as in every student housing contract. During this summer's on campus freshman orientation sessions, the university offered on-site vaccinations. More than 500 students received the vaccine.

The vaccine, which currently costs $73, will be available at the health center by appointment starting Aug. 19.

"Students living in any group housing, from scholarship halls to a shared apartment, are at an increased risk of contracting meningitis," said Dr. Mrya Strother, chief of staff of Student Health Services. "We want all students and their parents to know about meningitis and what protection the vaccine can provide so they can make an informed decision."

"We strongly encourage students in living groups to receive the vaccine as a wise precaution," Strother said. "The freshman year is a particularly stressful time, which can impair the immune system. We are committed to helping keep our students as healthy as possibly and believe the vaccine is a very good choice."

Meningitis is a severe infection of the bloodstream and lining of the brain and spinal cord. It typically occurs as a single isolated event, but clusters of cases are possible.

Freshmen in group housing are more likely to contract the disease than the general student population. A Journal of American Medical Association study in 2001 found that freshmen living in residence halls comprised only 4 percent of the total college population but were responsible for 31 percent of all meningitis cases in college students.

Students and staff can get more information about meningitis at our website www.ku.edu/~shs, calling our health education department at (785) 864-9570, making an appointment to speak with a physician (785) 864-9507 or by calling the Lawrence-Douglas County Health Department at (785) 843-0721 from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m weekdays.

Below is the text of the email message sent to all KU students today:


SUBJECT: An important message to all students about meningitis

The University of Kansas strongly recommends that all students in any form of group housing receive the meningitis vaccine. It is also recommended that all other KU students learn about meningitis and consider vaccination.

-- Meningitis strikes 3,000 Americans a year and kills 300.
-- 100 to 125 of those cases are on college campuses
-- 5 to 15 college students die every year in the U.S. from meningitis and many more are left with severe disabilities such as amputation or brain damage.

Freshmen living in residence halls and other group housing are six times as likely to contract this serious disease than other college students.

A safe vaccine is available that covers about 70% of all cases of meningococcal disease in college students. The vaccine is available at Student Health Services at Watkins Memorial Health Center. Appointments will be available starting Aug. 19 and can be made by calling (785) 864-9507. The current price is $73.

Please read the attached information with warning signs of the disease and further information about the vaccine. You can also get information on our website at www.ku.edu/~shs or by making an appointment to speak with one of our physicians.

The University of Kansas and your Student Health Services are committed to keeping you safe and healthy

Dr. Myra Strother, Chief of Staff"


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