Everything You Need to Know About the Meningitis Outbreak

UMass Amherst

 

If you are currently taking a class at UMass Amherst or know someone who is, chances are you’ve heard about the recent outbreak of meningitis that was announced by the school shortly after Thanksgiving Break.

Since I am one of the many students taking advantage of the Five College exchange program, I’ve received multiple emails from UMass’s University Health Services. The first announcement arrived on October 25 and informed everyone of the first case of meningitis on campus. Following the announcement, the University advised everyone to be “health smart” and avoid sharing personal items such as food and drinks. They also reminded the community to prevent the spread of germs by washing hands, using hand sanitizer, and sneezing into your arm instead of into your hands or the air.

The email was sent by Dr. George Corey, who is the Executive Director at UMass’s University Health Services. I admit that when I read the email I didn’t think twice about it-- I assumed it was something that would be resolved soon, and that the University sent the notice as a precaution. Three weeks later, however, on November 14, another email from Dr. Corey was sent out to the UMass Community reiterating information from the previous email and also to give an update. In this email, Dr. Corey informed everyone of a second student on campus who was diagnosed with meningitis. Interestingly enough, the two students who were diagnosed did not live near one another on UMass’s campus, causing alarm at the University.

At this point I became more worried, since no update had been given until this point and I’d hoped that meant the student with meningitis had been treated-- but instead, the opposite happened: the two cases of meningitis grew into an outbreak, which the University officially announced in the latest email, sent on November 28. Along with announcing an official outbreak of meningitis, the University strongly advised everyone on campus to receive the serogroup B vaccination. The University held four walk-in clinics over the period of two weeks, encouraging everyone to get the shot. It was announced in an email sent a few days ago that over 7,000 students received the vaccination.

The official announcement of the outbreak worried me greatly, since I spend about half of my week at UMass for my class and to visit friends. Shortly after reading the email I called the Mount Holyoke Health Services and asked them whether or not they recommend I receive the vaccinations-- they immediately told me yes, it would be safest to do so especially since I am on the campus regularly.

I later on realized I’d already received the vaccination over the summer and felt relieved. However, if you are like me and are taking a course at UMass I suggest you get vaccinated! I admit the shot leaves your arm sore and swollen for a few days, but the temporary discomfort is worth it.

For more information regarding the serogroup B vaccination and how you can get it, call Mount Holyoke’s Health Services at:  (413)‐538‐2121. You can also take a look at this helpful PDF file created by Health Services with more information about the Serogroup B Meningococcal Disease.

 

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