Meningococcal Disease

Many colleges require or strongly encourage that students get a meningococcal vaccine. Why?

Meningococcal disease is a serious bacterial illness and college students are at an increased risk for infection. This is likely due to lifestyle factors such as age (meningococcal disease is more commonly diagnosed among adolescents and young adults) and living in environments where large groups of people gather together, which can cause infectious disease to spread quickly.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicates:

Meningococcal disease can refer to any illness that is caused by the type of bacteria called Neisseria meningitidis, also known as meningococcus [muh-ning-goh-KOK-us]. The illness most people are familiar with is meningococcal meningitis, which people sometimes just call meningitis. This usually means the lining of the brain and spinal cord have become infected with these bacteria. But these bacteria can also cause other severe illnesses, like bloodstream infections (bacteremia or septicemia).

Meningococcus bacteria are spread through the exchange of respiratory and throat secretions like spit (e.g., living in close quarters, kissing). Although it can be very serious, meningococcal disease can be treated with antibiotics that prevent severe illness and reduce the spread of infection from person to person. Quick medical attention is extremely important if meningococcal disease is suspected. Keeping up to date with recommended vaccines is the best defense against meningococcal disease. Maintaining healthy habits, like getting plenty of rest and not coming into close contact with people who are sick, can also help.

Meningococcal vaccines protect against most types of meningococcal disease, although they do not prevent all cases. There are two kinds of vaccines that protect against Neisseria meningitidis available in the United States: meningococcal polysaccharide vaccine (Menomune®), and meningococcal conjugate vaccine (Menactra® and Menveo®).

For more information, please see additional facts provided by the CDC: Meningococcal Vaccines

If you are in Fayette and have questions, please contact the Howard County Public Health Nurse at 660-248-3100. If you are at another location in Missouri, please contact your local County Public Health Office.

To receive additional information regarding meningococcal, you can visit the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services site or download the informational brochure.