Meningitis Information On this page: |
- What is meningococcal meningitis?
- Meningococcal meningitis is a bacterial infection that causes inflammation of the membranes surrounding the brain and spinal cord. It is caused by the bacterium Neisseria meningitides, also known as meningococcus.
- What are the signs and symptoms?
- Meningitis is characterized by fever, headache, and stiff neck. Other symptoms may include nausea, vomiting, and mental status changes (confusion).
- How is meningitis diagnosed?
- The diagnosis is usually made by growing bacteria from a sample of spinal fluid. Identification of the type of bacteria responsible is important for selections of correct antibiotics.
- How is the disease spread?
- The infection is spread by direct contact with infected individuals (for example, sharing a glass or cigarette, or kissing) or through the air via droplets of respiratory secretions (for example, coughing or sneezing).
- Who is at risk for meningococcal meningitis?
- Anyone can get meningococcal disease. Certain groups are at a higher risk. These include infants, adolescents, and college students, particularly freshmen living in dormitories. Disease rates decline after infancy, but begin to rise again in early adolescence, peaking between the ages of 15 and 19 years.
- Why are college students at greater risk for meningococcal disease than the general population?
- While the reasons are not yet fully understood, studies from previous college outbreaks suggest that college students are more susceptible because they live and work in close proximity to each other in dormitories and classrooms. Behavioral and social aspects of college life appear to be risk factors as well, with smoking, exposure to second-hand smoke, excessive alcohol consumption, and bar patronage all increasing the chance that one will contract meningitis from an infected individual.
- Is there any way for college students to protect themselves against the threat of meningococcal disease?
- Two meningococcal vaccines are available in the U.S.
Both vaccines can prevent four types of meningococcal disease (A, C, Y, and W-135). In persons 15-24 years of age, 70-80% of cases are caused by potentially vaccine-preventable strains. Both vaccines work well, and protect more than 90% of those who get it. MCV4 (Menactra) is expected to give better, longer-lasting protection and should also be better at preventing the disease from spreading from person to person.
- Meningococcal Polysaccharide vaccine (MPSV4), also known as Menomune, has been available since the 1970s
- Meningococcal Conjugate vaccine (MCV4), also know as Menactra, licensed in 2005
- Why should college students consider preventive vaccination with the meningococcal vaccine?
- Meningococcal vaccination is recommended by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the American College Health Association (ACHA) for all first-year students living in residence halls. Data also shows an increased incidence of meningococcal disease among adolescents and young adults, including college students. Additionally, in persons 15-24 years of age, 70-80% of cases are caused by vaccine-preventable strains.
- What are the side effects of the vaccine? How safe is it?
- The meningococcal vaccines have an excellent safety profile. Side effects are mild and consist primarily of redness and swelling at the site of injection lasting up to two days.
Meningococcal immunization should be deferred during any acute illness. The vaccine should not be administered to individuals sensitive to any of the components of the vaccine.
- How effective is the vaccine and how long does it last?
- The MPSV4 vaccine (Menomune) has been shown to create protective levels of antibodies against the four most common strains of meningococcus in over 90% of adults studied. As with any vaccine, meningococcal vaccination may not protect 100% of susceptible individuals. Protection from the vaccine lasts for about 3-5 years. The MCV4 vaccine (Menactra) has been shown to create equally effective levels of protection. Duration of protection, although not currently known, is expected to be longer than with the MPSV4 vaccine. Studies are underway to further determine duration and to guide recommendations on revaccination.
Henry Wise Wellness Center does not have the meningitis vaccine available. The vaccine is available through the Prince George’s County Health Department by appointment only. Call 301-883-7230 for further information.
A waiver form must be signed for those students living in campus housing choosing NOT to receive the vaccine. This is also found on Residence Life Contract Form in the Office of Residence Life. The state law can be found in Article 18-102 (b) Annotated Code of Maryland 10.06.05.