Also known as meningitis, it is a bacterial infection of the brain and spinal cord coverings. It is a very serious and life-threatening infection.
About 2,800 people get meningococcal disease each year in the U.S. About 10-15% of these people die. Of those who recover, 10% experience serious long-term effects such as hearing loss, diminished mental capacity, loss of fingers or toes, seizures and other nervous system problems.
How does meningococcal disease spread?
Meningococcal disease is spread by close or direct contact with secretions from the nose and throat. Kissing, sharing silverware, drinking directly from the same container, sharing a cigarette or lipstick, and coughing are examples of how it spreads.
What are the symptoms of meningitis?
Symptoms of meningococcal meningitis can include a high fever, headache, a very stiff neck, confusion, nausea, sensitivity to light, vomiting, and exhaustion. A rash may also develop.
You may become seriously ill very quickly, so contact your student health service or health care provider immediately if you have 2 or more of these symptoms.
How can I protect myself from getting meningococcal disease?
Wash your hands often and avoid sharing silverware, drinking containers, lip stick/gloss and smoking materials. There is a vaccine that can prevent meningococcal disease.
What should I know about the meningococcal vaccine?
The vaccine is highly effective (85-100%) at preventing 4 of the 5 major strains of bacteria that cause meningococcal meningitis. Only one dose of the vaccine is needed.
A vaccine, like any medicine, is capable of causing serious problems, such as severe allergic reactions. The risk of the meningococcal vaccine causing serious harm is extremely small. Getting the vaccine is much safer than getting the disease. The vaccine is recommended by the American College Health Association, the Center for Disease Control and the American Academy of Pediatrics.
How can I learn more about meningococcal disease and the vaccine?
Ask your student health service or your health care provider.
Call your local health department’s immunization program or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC): 1-800-232-2522.
Visit the following sites:
Anyone can get meningococcal disease, but college freshmen living in residence halls are at increased risk. Please discuss this with your health care provider and consider getting immunized.