Health Center Wellness
Meningococcal Meningitis

As of November 18th there have been 7 confirmed cases of Meningitis at Princeton University.

There are 700-1000 cases of Meningococcal disease in the United States each year. It is estimated that 100-125 cases of Meningococcal disease occur annually on college campuses. Meningitis is the inflammation (swelling) of the protective membranes covering the brain and spinal cord. Meningococcal meningitis is very serious and is fatal in 9-12% of cases. In fatal cases, deaths can occur in as little as a few hours. Among those who recover, 20% have permanent disabilities including either hearing loss, brain damage, or loss of limbs.

Many people do not recognize the seriousness of the disease because many of the symptoms resemble those of the flu or a common cold. Unlike the common cold this is not an illness you want to wait out!

The incubation period (time before symptoms begin to show) is 3-4 days and from the onset of symptoms, Meningitis can be fatal within 24-48 hours. The cause of Meningococcal Meningitis is Neisseria meningitidis and 10% of people currently carry the bacteria in the back of their noses and throats. It is spread through the exchange of respiratory and throat secretions. Yup, that means any form of spit swapping (e.g. Kissing, sharing water bottles, or living in close quarters with someone with the disease).

So what do you do if you or someone you know has meningococcal disease? See your health care provider ASAP. Even those in close contact with a person with meningococcal disease should receive antibiotics prophylactically to prevent contracting the disease themselves.

The symptoms include sudden onset of fever, headache, and stiff neck, nausea, vomiting, photophobia (increased sensitivity to light), and altered mental status (confusion).

The good news is that there's a vaccine to help prevent meningococcal disease and it can prevent two of the three most common disease-causing strains. YIPPEE!!!

Meningococcal vaccination and booster shots: One dose is recommended for all children, teens, and young adults ages 11- 21. A booster dose is recommended every 5 years after the initial dose if any of the following risk factors apply:

·         You are a college student living in a dormitory.

·         You are a military recruit.

·         You have a damaged spleen or your spleen has been removed.

·         You have terminal complement deficiency, (which is an Innate Immune-System disorder)

·         You are a microbiologist who is routinely exposed to Neisseria meningitidis (the causal pathogen).

·         You are traveling or residing in countries in which the disease is common.

Check out the CDC's Adult Immunization Schedule to see if you're up to date on your immunizations:

The above information was taken from the CDC website ( and was compiled by BYU-Idaho Nursing Students in collaboration with the BYU-Idaho Student Health Center public health representative. Fall 2013.