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Meningitis: Meningococcal Disease

Meningococcal disease (opens in a new tab) is caused by the bacteria Neisseria meningitides. This bacteria is found in nasal and oral secretions, and at any time, up to 10% of the normal population may be found carrying N. meningitides without illness or symptoms. It can be transmitted through close personal contact, such as kissing on the lips or mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. The disease occurs sporadically throughout the year, although it tends to peak in late winter and early spring (February and March).

Meningococcal disease is rare. However, when it strikes, its flu-like symptoms make diagnosis difficult. If not treated early, the disease can lead to swelling of the fluid surrounding the brain and spinal column as well as severe and permanent disabilities, such as hearing loss, brain damage, seizures, limb amputation, and even death.

Recommendations for University Students

In an update to its initial recommendation made in October 1999, the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) voted in February 2005 to recommend that college students, particularly freshmen living in dormitories and residence halls, receive the meningococcal vaccine, as well as educated about meningococcal disease and the benefits of vaccination. The panel based its recommendation on studies showing that college students, particularly freshmen living in dormitories, have a five-fold increased risk for the illness. The recommendation further states that information about meningococcal disease and vaccination is appropriate for other undergraduate students who also wish to reduce their risk for the disease.

Meningococcal Vaccine

The two types of meningococcal vaccines are available in the US are:

  • Meningococcal polysaccharide vaccine (Menomune®) has been available since the 1970s
  • Meningococcal conjugate vaccine (Menactra®) was licensed in 2005

Both vaccines can protect against four types of the bacteria that cause meningococcal disease in the United States: types A, C, Y and W135. These types account for nearly two-thirds of the cases among college students.

Both vaccines work well and protect about 90% of those who get one. Menactra® is expected to give better, longer-lasting protection. It should also be better at preventing the disease from spreading from person to person.

  • Menactra® is the only one available at ASU Student Health Service at this time.
  • Payable by cash, check or charge to the student’s account or App State Express account.

For more information about meningococcal disease and vaccine, read the Vaccine Information Statement (opens in a new tab) published by the CDC’s National Immunization Program.

Please encourage your student to learn more about meningitis and the vaccine. For more information, please feel free to contact our health service or consult your student’s physician.

Page content reviewed: 06/04/18 fwg