Meningococcal Meningitis Information
Following recommendations from The
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Advisory Committee on
Immunization Practices (ACIP), we strongly encourage that all students receive the meningococcal meningitis vaccine prior to arriving on
The CDC also recommend that
other college students under 25 years old who wish to reduce their risk for meningococcal meningitis be vaccinated.
Meningitis can be caused by
many germs including bacteria, viruses and fungi. This condition is an
infection of the meninges—the tough outer membrane covering the brain and
spinal cord. The meningitis of most
concern is caused by bacteria named Neisseria meningitides. This condition is called meningococcal
meningitis. Students who live in the
dorms are at higher risk especially the 18 year old age group. However, older students and those living off
campus are at risk as well.
This is a very serious illness that can be prevented by the
meningococcal meningitis vaccine. The
effectiveness of the vaccine tends to wane after 5 years which is why a booster
Rates of infection
Meningococcal disease strikes 1,400 to
3,000 Americans each year and is responsible for approximately 150 to 300
deaths. Adolescents and young adults account for nearly 30 percent of all cases
of meningitis in the United States. In addition, approximately 100 to 125 cases
of meningococcal disease occur on college campuses each year, and five to 15
students will die as a result.
Who is at risk?
College students living in residence
halls are more likely to acquire meningococcal disease than the general college
population because of lifestyle factors such as:
- sharing personal items
- active or passive smoking
- irregular sleep patterns
- bar patronage
- excessive alcohol consumption (more than
15 drinks per week)
How it’s spread
The meningococcal bacteria can spread from person to
person through exchange of respiratory and throat secretions, such as coughing
and kissing. It can also be spread through the air via droplets of respiratory
Long term effects
Meningococcal infection can be contagious
and progresses very rapidly. It can easily be misdiagnosed as the flu, and if
not treated early, meningitis can lead to death or permanent disabilities. One
in five of those who survive will suffer from long-term side effects, such as:
- brain damage
- hearing loss
- limb amputation
Meningococcal meningitis often begins abruptly and can progress from mild symptoms to a
life-threatening illness in hours. Symptoms of meningitis include:
- high fever
- stiff neck
A reformulated meningococcal vaccine, or conjugate,
can provide longer duration of protection against four of the five strains of
bacteria that cause meningococcal disease.
The vaccine is available at Medical Services by appointment. Only one dose is recommended with a second dose recommended 5 years later. The
vaccine is 85-90 percent effective in protecting against strains A, C, Y, and
W-135. However, the vaccine does not cover one strain, which causes 32 percent
of meningococcal disease among 15 to 24-year-olds.
A new vaccine that protects against type B is now available.
For more information, contact us and/or
consult with your family physician. You can also read answers to common questions about meningitis and get more information from the CDC.