EAST LANSING (AP) – Michigan State University is sending letters to 2,300 students warning that the manufacturer of a meningitis vaccine they received says the inoculations may not work.

The producer of the adult version of the vaccine said it may not ward off a strain found in certain parts of Africa or in laboratories which study the disease, the Lansing State Journal reported yesterday.

Michigan State has Study Abroad programs in Ghana and Senegal, where people could be at risk for meningitis.

But university officials said most students aren’t at risk, and the school was sending the letters as a safeguard.

“The reality is there aren’t a large number of students who travel to sub-Saharan Africa,” said Kathi Braunlich, communications and planning coordinator at Michigan State’s Olin Health Center.

“But we want people to be well-informed.”

The faulty vaccines date to January 2001, and are produced by Aventis Pasteur in Bridgewater, N.J.

Company spokesman Len Lavenda said the company will pay for revaccinations for people who are at risk. He would not say how much of the vaccine may not work.

He said in some cases the vaccine might not protect against Group A of the meningococcus bacteria, found in a strip of African countries known as the “meningitis belt.”

Meningitis is an inflammation of the lining of the spinal cord and brain. The illness affects nearly 3,000 Americans a year, although Aventis said there has been only one death involving the Group A strain in the past decade.

“This is not a safety issue, and no one needs to be concerned about it,” Lavenda said.

The Ingham County Health Department is sending about 50 letters to people who may have received the faulty vaccine. Shiawassee County issued a notice Monday offering free revaccinations to people in affected groups.

Meningitis is an issue on college campuses because students living in close quarters are more likely to become sick. It’s spread through intimate or household exposure, such as kissing or sharing eating utensils.

It has infected six Michigan State students in the past five years. Three died.


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