We have learned a great deal about immunization and communicable diseases during the COVID-19 pandemic. But there are still other ongoing risks to our safety that require immunization, including Meningitis B.
Meningitis B rates are increasing in Germany and the UK as restrictions are easing. One reason that Meningitis B rates are becoming higher than they seemed to be before is that due to living in a COVID-19 pandemic, some people are experiencing immune debt.
Immune debt is a phenomenon that can compromise our immune systems and lower our tolerance for pathogens circulating in the environment.
University students are slowly trickling back to in-person classes, living in dorms, and other activities that come with campus life. How can we keep our children safe to focus on education at this critical time in their lives?
Carriage rates of Meningitis B in adolescents and young adults living in dormitories can be as high as 50%. This means that half of the students living on campus could be carriers and not even know it.
Luckily, Meningitis B is preventable, thanks to vaccinations.
What is Immune Debt, and How Does it Affect Me?
Scientists are now studying the effects of long-term isolation from viral or bacterial exposure. Human beings are constantly spreading their germs to one another, and this has a benefit because it results in herd immunity.
The very necessary safety precautions of the pandemic, which had included lockdowns, quarantining, isolation, and masking up, served to protect medical facilities from being overwhelmed so that when people did get sick, they could be better treated.
However, the studies have been finding that isolation has affected our herd immunity with respect to other viruses like Meningitis B. Without exposure to circulating microbial agents, our internal immunity decreases, resulting in an immunity debt.
This period of immune debt can impact young people who are still undergoing immune stimulation through regular contact.
This was the norm before the pandemic, but now children have been missing out on that window.
Immunization is Important for University Students and Everyone
It has been found that adolescents and young adults newly entering university, particularly those living on campus, have a higher risk of Meningitis B.
Meningitis B can be a serious illness. It is in a serogroup of the Meningitis causing invasive meningococcal disease and is not part of regular childhood vaccinations since the Meningitis B vaccine has only been available since 2014.
Up to 1 in 10 people who contract Meningitis B will not survive, even with appropriate medical treatment, some as quickly as within 24 hours from the onset of symptoms.
Meningitis B can cause an infection of the membrane surrounding the spinal cord and brain, resulting in a serious infection of the bloodstream.
Anybody can be affected by Meningitis B.
University students are naturally in close quarters during class and while on campus. For those who also live on campus, their exposure can be exponentially increased.
Countries including Germany and the UK have already seen sharp increases in the number of Meningitis B cases. While most recover, some have died, and others have contracted permanent disabilities from the disease, such as brain damage, hearing loss, epilepsy, or loss of limbs.
What Can You Do To Protect Yourself?
Meningitis B is a serious threat to young people newly entering university. Just when they embark on this exciting new chapter in their lives, there is a looming concern that it could all be taken away.
Luckily, vaccines for Meningitis B are available, and they are safe and effective. These vaccines are a good idea for those returning to campus and especially if they are living with other students.
To find out more about your immunization history, where to get immunized, or to answer any questions about Meningitis B or the vaccine, contact immunize.io.