Preventing meningitis outbreaks

Posted by: Hannah Carlock  | Friday, January 20, 2017 8:50 am

Cases of students contracting meningococcal disease, also known as meningitis, have been confirmed at multiple universities in Indiana. With two universities in our area, I want to increase awareness about this infectious disease and highlight legislation that I have authored that if passed into law, would require university students in Indiana to get the immunization for meningitis.

Meningitis is a serious infection caused by fluid surrounding the brain and spinal cord, which can sometimes lead to a bloodstream infection. Symptoms of meningitis are fever, headache, nausea, vomiting, a stiff neck, confusion and increased sensitivity to light. Meningitis comes in two forms, viral and bacterial, and is spread from person to person through close contact. Bacterial meningitis is very serious and can be deadly. Most people end up recovering from meningitis, but permanent disabilities like brain damage, hearing loss and learning disabilities can result from the infection.

As a respiratory therapist, I know that health care providers are often apprehensive when caring for a patient with meningitis. This is a highly contagious disease that can cause a very quick death or life-altering side effects. It is recommended that people at high risk for meningitis receive the immunization. Those identified to be at highest risk of contracting this infection are infants under the age of 1, people with certain medical conditions, college students living in resident halls and teens ages 15 to 19.

Indiana follows the Centers for Disease Control protocol by requiring high school students to get the meningitis immunization, but not all states and countries follow the CDC’s recommendations. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, there are 37 states that have one or more laws relating to meningitis, with a majority of these laws focusing on requirements laid out by high schools and universities.

Because not every state and country follow the same protocols, my proposal for a new law would require all students attending a university in Indiana to receive the meningitis immunization.

This proposal allows for some people to opt out based on religious or health reasons. My legislation aims to keep our students safe and healthy while preventing a potential outbreak.

The House Committee on Public Health unanimously approved this proposal, which can now be considered by the full House. As always, please contact me with questions or input at 317-232-9833 or by email at h75@iga.in.gov. I appreciate hearing from you in order to better represent our district.

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 State Rep. Ron Bacon (R-Chandler) represents House District 75,

which includes portions of Warrick, Pike and Spencer counties.

 A high-resolution photo of Bacon can be downloaded by clicking here