Bacterial meningitis (meningococcal disease) is a rare but serious bacterial infection. It occurs most often in late winter and early spring. Adolescents, ages 16-21, have the highest rate of meningococcal disease.
How is Meningitis Transmitted?
Meningococcal disease is not easily transmitted by casual contact. However, roommates, close friends, spouses, and children who have intimate contact with the respiratory and throat secretions (e.g., coughing, kissing) of a person diagnosed with meningococcal disease are at risk of contracting the disease.
Early Symptoms of Meningitis
The early symptoms usually associated with meningococcal disease include fever, severe headache, stiff neck, rash, nausea, vomiting, and lethargy. These symptoms may be mistaken for the flu.
Preventing meningococcal disease requires good hygiene, including frequent hand washing, not sharing drinks, eating utensils or cigarettes; and proper disposal of soiled tissues. Covering one's mouth when coughing or sneezing is also recommended. Meningococcal vaccine is recommended at ages 11-12 years, with a booster dose at age 16-18 years (or five years after initial vaccine). Additional information on meningitis can be obtained from the Center for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) at: CDC Meningitis FAQS
Health Services offers Meningococcal vaccine to students at their request.
Special groups that should consider voluntary immunization include college freshmen living in residence halls; individuals without a spleen, and those who have sickle cell disease or other immune disorders; and travelers to countries where meningitis is common.