Meningitis Education Seminars and Shots Offered to College-Bound Seniors

March 18, 2001

Joseph Ferraro was only 20 years old when he died of bacterial meningitis last year. The Rochester Institute of Technology film student suddenly fell ill during his return from a trip to Israel. Since his death, his mother, Doreen, has become an advocate for meningitis prevention. "I just want to get the word out about this so that people can protect themselves and their children," she says.

That is the reason that Ferraro is lending her support to and encouraging college-bound high school seniors to attend one of four education seminars being sponsored by the University of Rochester School of Nursing's Community Nursing Center along with the Passport Health program. Students who attend these three-hour sessions will not only be vaccinated for bacterial meningitis but will have the opportunity to listen to various presentations on campus health and safety. "College students are more vulnerable to infectious diseases and physical injuries because of their lifestyles and sometimes high-risk behaviors. We want to, first of all, immunize them against this disease, but also provide them with some solid information about keeping healthy while away from home," says William D. Russell, R.N., B.A., B.S.N., director of operations for Passport Health, a health promotion/prevention service geared mainly toward international travelers.

Meningitis has become a growing concern for health care professionals in recent years and has gained nationwide attention. Between 1998 and 1999, there were 83 cases of college-based meningitis, six of which were fatal. "This disease is contagious and has a rapid onset. It is transmitted through kissing, sharing eating utensils, or drinking glasses, and coughing or sneezing in someone's face," says Dr. Mark Shelley, an infectious diseases and travel/tropical medicine expert at Highland Hospital and co-director of Passport Health.

While some colleges and universities now require meningitis vaccinations prior for to enrollment, others are certainly recommending it, as are organizations such as the American College Health Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics. "A single-dose of the vaccine provides significant protection for two to three years from meningococcal meningitis types A, C, Y, and W135," says Dr. Paul S. Graman, clinical director of the University of Rochester Medical Center's Infectious Disease Unit and medical co-director for Passport Health.

"This is one important way that we are actively working to improve the health and safety of our community," says Dr. Raymond J. Mayewski, vice president and chief medical officer for Strong Health. "Meningitis, while rare, still poses a threat to many of our young people. We want to try to eliminate that threat and provide them with the information they need to stay healthy in an exciting, yet sometimes stressful new environment."

The education/vaccination seminars are scheduled for 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. on the following Wednesdays: April 4, April 11, April 25, and May 2. All sessions will take place at Helen Wood Hall on the University of Rochester Medical Campus. The cost is $83 for the vaccine and pre-registration is required. Call the Passport Health office at 275-8884 or 1-888-499-7277, or go to for more information or to register.

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Susan Fandel
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