In recent days, the issue of meningitis on college campuses has caught the attention of media throughout Michigan and the nation, due to suspected or confirmed cases at U-M and other universities, and the issuing of guidelines by the Centers for Disease Controls Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (CDC/ACIP) regarding vaccination of college students against the bacterial form of the disease.
I am pleased to report that the U-M student who was admitted to University Hospital on Oct. 18 with mild meningitis symptoms has been discharged, and final tests on her blood have shown no sign of meningococcal bacteria. Her doctors and I can now report with confidence that this was a case of viral meningitis, which, while serious, is not nearly as serious nor as contagious as meningococcal, or bacterial, meningitis. The viral form of the disease typically appears in the fall and causes symptoms of severe head pain and stiff neck. It cannot be vaccinated against nor treated with antibiotics.
The U-M administration and I recognize the serious nature of the meningitis issue, and the concerns that both forms of this disease may raise among students, parents and staff. We will be taking steps in the coming week to follow the CDC/ACIP recommendations to inform freshmen, dormitory residents and their parents regarding the availability of the vaccine against bacterial meningitis, and to tell them of its potential benefits.
First, we will continue to update the University Health Service meningitis Web page www.uhs.umich.edu/uhs/whatsup/meningitis.html with the latest information on both forms of the disease, the vaccine, and any cases seen on campus. A hotline, 764-8320, provides similar information.
Second, we are continuing our existing program of making meningococcal vaccine available to students who wish to receive it as supplies are available, at a cost of $89. We will be receiving 500 additional doses of the vaccine this week, and 500 more next week. We should recognize, however, that the vaccines manufacturer may reserve the right to send the vaccine on a priority basis to campuses that have experienced a bacterial meningitis case.
In addition to these steps, I am working with infectious disease specialists from the Medical School to formulate a proposed policy on meningitis that will be forwarded to the interim vice president for student affairs for presentation to the executive officers of the University.
This proposal will include our plans for compliance with the CDC/ACIP vaccination recommendations, as well as a description of how we as a university would respond to a single case or multiple cases of meningococcal meningitis.
In the wake of recent events, I would again remind students to be watchful for the typical symptoms of both types of meningitis, namely severe headache, neck stiffness, fever, aches, nausea and, in more serious cases, mental symptoms such as confusion or coma. If they or their peers experience these symptoms, they should report during business hours to University Health Service, or after hours to the University Hospital Emergency Room.