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Is a vaccine available to protect
against meningitis?
A safe and effective vaccine is
available. The vaccine is a
quadrivalent meningococcal vaccine
which is 85% to 100% effective in
protecting against four groups of
bacteria that cause approximately
70% of the disease in the U.S.
Side effects from the vaccine are mild
and consist mostly of pain and
redness at the injection site for 1-2
days. The safety of the vaccine in
pregnant women has not been
Who should take the vaccine?
The American College Health Association has
adopted the recommendation of the Advisory
Committee on Immunization Practices of the
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
(CDC), which states that college students,
particularly those living in dormitories, be
educated about meningococcal meningitis
and the potential benefits of vaccination. In
some states, legislation has been passed
which requires the offering of vaccination to
college students.
For more information about meningitis and
the vaccine, visit:
Protective antibody levels are reached
within 7-10 days after vaccination.
Immunity persists for approximately
three to five years.
It should be noted that no vaccine
protects 100% of susceptible
Reviewed by Kim Strelczyk, MSN, CCRN, CIC
Copyright © 2005 by the Association for
Professionals in Infection Control and
Epidemiology (APIC)
Incidence of meningococcal meningitis
How is meningitis transmitted?
The bacteria are spread from person to
person through respiratory droplets and by
direct contact with the oral and respiratory
secretions of an infected individual.
What is Meningococcal Meningitis?
Meningococcal meningitis (sometimes
called spinal meningitis) is a potentially
life-threatening infection that affects the
brain and spinal cord. In some cases,
the infection involves the bloodstream
causing meningococcemia, a serious
blood infection. The infection is cause
by the bacterium Neisseria meningitidis
which is the leading cause of bacterial
meningitis in older children and young
adults in the United States.
Occurs in approximately 2,800 Americans each
Death occurs in 10%-15% of cases, or 300 deaths
In recent years, an increase in the rate of
occurrence has been observed in those aged
15-24 years
Outbreaks of disease were observed nationally
on college campuses during the 1990s
Close contact with an infected individual,
including household members and anyone with
whom drinks/cigarettes may have been
shared, or intimate contact, such as kissing,
has occurred. Anyone in close contact with
infected individuals should receive prophylactic
Early symptoms of meningitis
Who is at risk?
High fever
Neck stiffness
Occurrence of meningococcal disease peaks in
late winter and early spring.
Early treatment is essential because the infection
can rapidly progress into meningococcemia
(bacteria in the bloodstream or bloodstream
College, students, particularly those who live
in a dormitory
Anyone in close contact with a known case
Individuals who are traveling to endemic
areas such as sub-Saharan Africa where
meningitis is prevalent
Individuals with immune deficiencies or
spleen problems