There have been six people in Crook County affected with the meningococcal bacteria. The three cases in three months constitutes an outbreak according to federal standards.
by Kirsteen Wolf
Vaccinations are recommended for those who live in dorm rooms and those between the ages six months and 25 years old.
“College freshman residing in dormitories are at greater risk of acquiring meningococcal disease than are college students not living in dormitories,” according to the Center for Disease Control website.
Those living in college dorms have always been ongoing targets for vaccinations. The recent outbreak of meningitis does not change that recommendation.
“We have not communicated any federal recommendations for vaccinations specifically for residence hall students,” said Paul Wheeler, the housing coordinator for Central Oregon College’s Juniper Hall.
The age range for the recommendations have expanded according to Karen Yeargain, Crook County’s communicable disease coordination. The new recommendations have increased from ages 11 to 18 years. These expanded recommendations are a direct result of the outbreak in Crook County.
Suzi Kristensen, Prineville Campus’ coordinator has distributed information to students regarding menningococcal infection and places to acquire vaccinations. Kristensen has made face masks and hand sanitizer available as well.
“We have not seen any change in attendance and very little increase in phone inquiries,” said Kristensen.
Because of the outbreak status, the state has supplied more vaccine to the county. Those vaccines will be made available to those falling in the expanded recommended vaccine category.
Yeargain feels that the outbreak is a time when awareness of meningitis prevention can be heightened.
Statewide, 60 percent of those 11-18 years old were vaccinated against meningitis, the numbers for Crook County were 43 percent according to Yeargain.
“We are anticipating that our vaccinations rates will increase over the next few years due to the awareness brought about by this outbreak,” she said adding that the health department hopes that the vaccination rates continue to rise.
COCC issued information to students asking for those who may be ill to not come to class.
“Anyone experiencing these symptoms [fever, headache, neck stiffness and/or rash] should not come to class and should seek medical attention immediately,” said the statement.
The average age for COCC students is 29, outside the expanded range for recommended vaccinations. But information is available so students staff and faculty can be aware of the risks.