In the wake of the meningitis death of a University of Pennsylvania student two weeks ago, Temple has taken strides to protect its own student body, officials said.
On the morning of Sept. 9, Anne Ryan, 19, a Penn sophomore, died of meningococcal meningitis, a contagious disease caused by an infection in the fluid surrounding the spinal cord and brain. The Erie, Pa., native lived off-campus with her roommate, who was uninfected.
This incident is of increasing concern for Temple’s Office of Housing and Residential Life and Student Health Services because college students have a higher risk of contracting meningococcal meningitis.
College freshmen residing in university housing can be four times more likely to be infected than any other group, according to the American College Health Association, because of their prolonged close living quarters and likeliness to exchange throat and respiratory secretions via kissing, smoking and sharing utensils.
Mark Denys, associate director of Health Services, met with University Housing to help close the gap on the number of students who don’t receive the vaccination before school begins.
An immunization form for the meningitis vaccine, information about meningitis and a waiver are sent to incoming students planning on residing in university housing, in accordance with a Pennsylvania law. Denys said he hopes that by making the forms available online and in the residence halls on move-in day, students will have the opportunity to evaluate their decision and ultimately choose to be vaccinated.
Dr. Darilyn Moyer, Temple Hospital’s program director for internal medicine, said vaccination is not 100 percent effective. There is still a 15-percent chance of contracting one of the five common forms of meningitis, however the newer vaccines protect against four of the five forms, she said.
Moyer said meningitis is “a tricky disease to diagnose because it resembles symptoms of other common illnesses.” Symptoms include headache, vomiting, fever and stiff neck, but Moyer advises to “listen to your own body, and most importantly, get vaccinated.”
A flu and meningitis vaccine fair will be held in the Student Center Nov. 7 for anyone who has yet to receive their vaccinations. Denys encourages students to get vaccinated.
As for Ryan’s death, Denys said, “It’s a tragedy, and I feel for her family, friends and staff at University of Pennsylvania.”
Kendra Howard can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.