On behalf of Northeastern State University I am writing to inform you about meningococcal disease, a rare, but potentially fatal, bacterial infection commonly referred to as meningitis, and a new immunization recommendation that may affect your college-bound child.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the American College Health Association (ACHA) have approved new recommendations that urge all first-year students living in residence halls to be immunized against meningococcal disease. The CDC and ACHA recommendations further state that other college students under 25 years of age, who wish to reduce their risk for the disease may choose to be vaccinated.
Meningococcal disease strikes 1,400 to 3,000 Americans each year and is responsible for approximately 150 to 300 deaths. Adolescents and young adults account for nearly 30 percent of all cases of meningitis in the United States. In addition, approximately 100 to 125 cases of meningococcal disease occur on college campuses each year, and five to 15 students will die as a result.
A reformulated meningococcal vaccine (“conjugate”) is now available that has the potential to provide longer duration of protection against four of the five strains (or types) of bacteria that cause meningococcal disease – types A, C, Y, and W-135.
Due to lifestyle factors, such as crowded living situations, bar patronage, active or passive smoking, irregular sleep patterns, and sharing of personal items, college students living in residence halls are more likely to acquire meningococcal disease than the general college population.
Meningococcal infection is contagious, and progresses very rapidly. It can easily be misdiagnosed as the flu, and, if not treated early, meningitis can lead to death or permanent disabilities. One in five of those who survive will suffer from long-term side effects, such as brain damage, hearing loss, seizures, or limb amputation.
For more information, please feel free to contact our health service at 918-444-2126 or consult your child’s physician. You also can find information about the disease and immunization by visiting, the ACHA website and the CDC website.
Libby Rogers, ARNP
Coordinator of Student Health Services
Northeastern State University
Meningitis and your Child
Certain college students are at increased risk for meningococcal disease, a rare, but potentially fatal, bacterial infection commonly referred to as meningitis.
- Meningococcal disease is a bacterial infection that most often leads to meningitis or a condition called meningococcal septicemia, which is an infection of the blood.
- Meningococcal disease is caused by bacteria called Neisseria meningitidis that are spread person-to-person through the air (usually by sneezing or coughing), through direct contact with an infected person, such as oral contact with shared items like cigarettes or drinking glasses, or through intimate contact, such as kissing.
- Meningococcal disease can lead to death or permanent disabilities, such as brain damage, hearing loss, seizures, or limb amputation.
- Symptoms of meningococcal disease often resemble those of the flu or other mild illnesses with a fever, making it sometimes difficult to diagnose. Symptoms may include high fever, severe headache, stiff neck, rash, nausea, vomiting, fatigue, and confusion. If you notice these symptoms – in yourself, friends, or others – you should contact your college health service or local hospital.
- College students, particularly freshmen who live in residence halls, are more likely to acquire meningococcal disease than the general college population, due to lifestyle factors, such as crowded living situations, bar patronage, active or passive smoking, irregular sleep patterns, and sharing personal items.
- Many cases of meningococcal disease can be prevented. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American College Health Association recommend that all first-year students living in residence halls be vaccinated against meningococcal disease. All other college students under the age of 25 years who wish to reduce their risk for the disease may choose to be vaccinated.
- Vaccination is safe and effective. It protects against four of the five most common strains (or types) of bacteria that cause meningitis. Approximately 70 to 80 percent of cases in the college age group are caused by strains that are potentially vaccine-preventable. The most commonly reported adverse reactions among adolescents and adults in clinical studies were pain at the injection site, headache, and fatigue. These respond to simple measures (ibuprofen or acetaminophen) and resolve spontaneously within a few days.