Meningococcal meningitis is a rare but potentially fatal bacterial infection of the membranes surrounding the spinal cord. Living in close quarters (such as college dorms or military barracks) is a risk factor. There are separate vaccines for meningogoccal groups ACWY disease (MenACWY disease) and meningococcal group B disease (MenB disease).
MenACWY Vaccine - Ther are quadrivalent (4 group) vaccines that help protect against groups A, C, W, and Y. These have been available in the United States since the 1980's. CDC recommends MenACWY vaccination for all adolescents 11-12 years of age, with a booster at age 16 (before the period of increased risk)
MenB Vaccine - MenB disease is different from MenACWY disease, so a different type of vaccine was needed MenB vaccines were not available in the United States until October, 2014. According to the CDC, MenB vaccination may be administered to adolescents and young adults 16-23 years of age, preferably 16-18 years of age, to help protect against MenB disease.
Meningococcal Disease Fact Sheet
What is meningococcal disease? Meningococcal disease is a rare, potentially fatal, bacterial infection. The disease occurs as either meningococcal meningitis, an inflammation of the membranes surrounding the brain and spinal cord or a meningococcemia, the presence of bacteria in the blood.
How many cases of meningococcal disease occur each year? Outbreaks of meningococcal disease are rare but serious. Some outbreaks have been reported recently in the United States: In 2010, 4 outbreaks were reported (2 from MenB disease and 2 from meingococcal group C disease). In 2013-2014, 2 outbreaks of MenB disease were reported on US college campuses. There were 3 deaths from MenB in college students reported in 2014.
How is meningococcal disease spread? Meningococcal disease is transmitted through the air via droplets of respiratory secretions and by direct contact with an infected person. Direct contact is defined as oral contact with shared items such as cigarettes or drinking glasses or through intimate contact such as kissing. Many people carry the bacteria in their throats, but almost all of them build up a natural immunity before developing any illness.
What are the symptoms? The early symptoms mimic the flu, including fever, severe headache, stiff neck, rash and lethargy. The disease often progresses rapidly.
Who is at risk? College students in general are at no greater risk of contracting meningococcal disease than the population of 18-22 year olds as a whole, but studies have shown freshmen living in residence halls have a six times higher risk of meningococcal disease than college students overall. Students 25 years of age or older have a low risk of disease.
How can college students reduce their risk of contracting meningococcal disease? A vaccine called Menactra helps protect against meningococcal disease.
How effective is the vaccine? The vaccine (Menactra) is not effective against one strain of the disease, but provides excellent protection against the strains that cause about 70 - 80% of infections in college students. Development of immunity requires seven to ten days. Protection lasts eight or more years. Routine use of meningococcal vaccine in U.S. military recruits led to an 87% reduction in the incidence of meningococcal disease in this group.
Is the vaccine safe? The vaccine is very safe and adverse reactions are mild and infrequent, consisting primarily of redness and pain at the site of injection lasting up to two days, and mild headache.
What does the CDC recommend? The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends routine vaccination of all persons ages 16-23 years of age
How can I obtain the vaccination? The vaccination Meneactra and Bexsero are available at the NMU Health Center. Some insurers cover this expense, please call the customer service number on the back of your card if you have questions about coverage for your plan. No appointment is necessary. Vaccinations are administered 9a-11a and 2p-4p, during the academic year and summer hours, 8:30a-11a or 1p-3p as the health center closes at 4pm during the summer.