The Editorial Board strongly supports ongoing efforts to provide students with information about the current cases of infection with theN. meningitidisbacteria on our campus and to continue to promote cautious behavior. In view of recent events, the Board recommends that students strongly consider receiving the vaccine against serogroup B to be made available next month.
Meningococcal disease remains a serious concern in the United States. The rate of mortality is 10-15 percent and long-term effects of infection are seen in 10-20 percent of survivors. A recent outbreak in Ohio involved a serogroup B strain like the one here at Princeton. Over three years, there were 13 cases on that campus despite a concerted effort to limit saliva contact, and there was a fatality in that Ohio outbreak. Thus, the current measures being taken to stop this epidemic at Princeton will not prove fully effective. Swabbing and culturing for possible carriers is of no value in deciding who should receive antibiotic prophylaxis, since carriage ofN. meningitidisis variable and there is no consistent relationship between that found in the normal population and in an epidemic. Measures to avoid saliva exchange, while commendable, are impossible to enforce universally — especially not on Prospect Avenue. Even after receiving a vaccine, students must remain cautious; eating club presidents should consider temporarily suspending any activities and drinking games with a particularly high risk of transmitting the disease.
The serogroup B vaccine is approved and has been utilized in Australia and Europe, and approval by the CDC for use on our campus implies a high level of confidence about the safety of the vaccine. While we recognize the desire for a voluntary and non-compulsory implementation plan, we raise the following caveat. To eradicate an epidemic, there is a phenomenon called “herd immunity” that will protect a population even if all members are not immune. If close to 80 percent of our community needs to be immunized before herd immunity is achieved, for example, it is unclear if a voluntary vaccination program will achieve this threshold. Because of the group benefits of individual vaccinations, the Board urges individuals to strongly consider receiving the vaccination.
There also remain questions to be answered. What is the exact strain at Princeton? It was ST-269 studied by the CDC on the Ohio campus. It is important to determine whether the strain seen in patients this fall is exactly the same as the one in the spring, and if it is related to others previously reported, in order to judge the virulence. If this data is available, the CDC should be transparent. It is only through continued transparency and communication that our community can be empowered to make the right preventive health decisions.
Abstaining: Zach Horton