Princeton Attempts to Stem Meningitis Outbreak With Overseas Vaccine

Hey Princeton University kids, stop making out and get back to studying! The illustrious college may not be feeling up to its usual snuff lately, as a dangerous meningitis outbreak has been infiltrating its stately halls. After mulling it over, Princeton University has decided to distribute a meningitis vaccine on campus that hasn't been approved by the Food and Drug Administration, but has been used in Europe and Australia. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention sought unprecedented action to stem it — marking first time a vaccine from overseas will be used to combat a U.S. outbreak.

The CDC announced Nov. 15 that the FDA had approved the importation of Bexsero to stem the tide of more meningitis cases. Princeton's particular meningitis is no ordinary strain, officials say. The latest case was announced on Nov. 10. Meningococcal type B causes flu-like symptoms within hours, but its key characteristic causes the neck to become stiff. It kills 10 percent of kids and adults who contract the disease. Those who survive risk serious brain and hearing damage. 

The vaccine, which is not mandatory, will be available in December and February for all students who live in dorms and university employees who have medical conditions that make them susceptible to the disease.

Even though the number of infected students may seem small, it is a very serious situation. 

"The definition of an epidemic is an increase over the expected number so this definitely constitutes an epidemic," says Meg Fisher, medical director for the Unterberg Children's Hospital at Monmouth Medical Center in Long Branch, N.J. "The length of the epidemic is unusual as well." 

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Meningitis is spread through close contact. And as anyone who has even set foot on a college campus can attest, universities can be breeding grounds for infections and illness. Just think about the close quarters of a dorm or how lecture halls with tiny desks are packed to the brim with students. Or any basement party, for that matter. Eeek.

Seven out of the roughly 8,000 students at Princeton have been infected with the disease since March. With Thanksgiving break quickly approaching, CDC officials feared a spread of the disease as students take off to visit their families around the country. 

In September, the school gave out about 5,000 red plastic cups emblazoned with the message, "Mine. Not Yours." in hopes to educate students about the spread of meningitis. (Because Princeton students haven't heard of germs.) 

Anyway, if you need me, I'll be barricaded in my room about 40 minutes north of the meningitis outbreak, armed with copious amounts of Purell. Stay away, Princetonians! 

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