Texas A&M student Nicolis Williams, age 20, died Feb. 11 from bacterial meningitis after being hospitalized only a few days earlier on Tuesday of the same week. Williams was the second Aggie to contract meningitis at A&M in the last six months.
Both A&M and ACU comply with Texas state law, which requires all students living on-campus to be vaccinated for meningitis 10 days prior to the first day of school. However, no state requirement exists for students living off campus – Williams was living off campus.
The ACU office of admissions lists the meningitis vaccination as a requirement for all incoming students and has recommended it since before it became state-mandated, according to Dr. Ellen Little, physician and director of the Medical Clinic.
ACU requires all incoming freshmen and transfer students registered to live in an on-campus dorm to have the meningitis vaccination, Little said. In addition, the office of admissions asks every incoming student planning to live off campus to receive the vaccination – however, this requirement is not as easily enforced and there are some conscious objectors, according to Little.
Dr. Little states that there has not been a case of bacterial meningitis at ACU in the year and a half that she has been on staff at the university. However, there have been cases of viral meningitis which can be equally as serious. The difference is that victims of viral meningitis often have a better recovery rate, Little said.
There are many variations of the disease. Rabies and West Nile virus are both forms of viral meningitis. Medical literature used to say that getting the shot once was enough, Little said. But now a booster is recommended after five years. Many students first received the vaccination as juniors in high school and may be due for a booster.
“Go and get it done wherever you are; it is still worth it,” Little said, “It is a good idea to get a booster in five years.”
Symptoms of bacterial meningitis include high fever, severe headaches, low responsiveness and a characteristic rash.
“A high fever and bad headache are always reasons to seek medical attention,” Little said.
Former ACU student, Kara Washam, junior education major at A&M, says that the Aggie student body has received multiple e-mails encouraging them to get the meningitis vaccination. Washam also pointed to the housing situation at A&M as part of the problem.
“There is not enough space at all,” said Washam, “There is not enough on-campus housing to hold all the freshmen and many live off-campus.”
For more information on bacterial meningitis contact the medical clinic at 674-2625.