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RAF MILDENHALL, England — The military is urging college-bound high-school seniors to hit the clinic before they hit the dorms.

The Europe Regional Medical Command issued a release Friday reminding students that meningitis commonly strikes in shared-living environments, such as college dormitories or military barracks.

“College freshmen that live in dormitories are five times more likely to get a meningococcal infection as compared with those who live off campus or don’t attend college,” said Dr. (Lt. Col.) William P. Corr, Europe Regional Medical Command’s consultant for preventive medicine at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany.

The command said military trainees receive a host of vaccines to protect against several types of meningitis and other infections, and recommend students bound for college do the same. The vaccine lasts a lifetime.

Four cases of meningitis — three fatal — struck U.S. victims early last year in Germany, according to Europe Regional Medical Command spokeswoman Jeri Chappelle. One soldier, a family member and a civilian assigned to Spangdahlem Air Force Base died as a result. The survivor was a 16-year old son of an Army civilian, Chappelle said.

“A lot of people got their shots after that,” Chappelle said.

Three of the four victims weren’t vaccinated and had been infected by a strain of meningitis that is covered in the vaccine, said Chappelle, who received the information from the Center for Health Promotion and Preventive Medicine-Europe.

Another had been vaccinated, but was infected by a strain not covered by the vaccine, she said.

“Vaccination reduces the likelihood of infection,” Chappelle said. “It covers some strains but not all.”

No cases of meningitis have been reported yet this year, she said.

The bacterial infection can lead to meningococcal meningitis, an inflammation of the membranes surrounding the brain and spinal cord, or meningococcal septicemia, an infection of the blood, according to the American College Health Association.

It strikes 1,400 to 3,000 Americans each year and is responsible for approximately 150 to 300 deaths. About 100 to 125 cases of meningococcal disease occur on college campuses each year, the ACHA said. Five to 15 students die as a result.

There are about 1,380 high- school seniors attending the Department of Defense Dependents Schools system this year. Last year, about 58 percent of DODDS seniors said they planned to attend a four-year college after graduation.


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