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University Health Services

Meningococcal Disease

For up-to-date information, please refer to these websites from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Ohio Department of Health (ODH):

Meningococcal Disease: What You Need to Know

University Health Services recommends students get vaccinated with both types of meningococcal vaccines, especially if living in residence halls.  

(1) What is meningococcal disease?

  • Meningococcal disease is a serious disease caused by a bacterium called Neisseria meningitidis.

  • These bacteria can invade the body and cause meningitis (inflammation of the lining of the brain and spinal cord) or bacteremia/septicemia (an infection of the bloodstream).


(2) Why should I be concerned about meningococcal disease?

  • Meningococcal disease can be very serious – even life threatening – in 48 hours or less. Even with antibiotics, 10 to 15 percent of people with meningococcal disease will die. About 11 to 19 percent of survivors will have long-term disabilities, such as loss of limbs or digits, deafness or brain damage.

  • Infectious diseases tend to spread quickly wherever large groups of people gather together. As a result, first-year college students living in residence halls are at a slightly increased risk of meningococcal disease compared with others of the same age.

  •  Vaccines can reduce the risk of developing meningococcal disease.


(3) What are symptoms of meningococcal disease?

  • Symptoms of meningococcal meningitis include: fever, headache and stiff neck. There may be additional symptoms such as nausea and vomiting, photophobia (increased sensitivity to light), altered mental status (confusion) and rash.

  • Symptoms of meningococcal septicemia may include: fatigue, vomiting, cold hands and feet, cold chills, severe body aches, rapid breathing, diarrhea and dark purple rash.

  •  Early diagnosis and treatment are very important.  Anyone with these symptoms should contact a healthcare provider immediately.


(4) How is meningococcal infection spread?

  • According to the CDC, about 10 percent of people carry the bacteria in the back of their nose and throat without any signs or symptoms of meningococcal disease. A person with the bacteria and without symptoms is referred to as a “carrier.”

  • The bacteria are spread through the exchange of respiratory and throat secretions (e.g., saliva, by kissing or coughing) during close or lengthy contact.

  • According to the CDC, these bacteria are not as contagious as germs that cause the common cold or flu. The bacteria are not spread by casual contact or simply by breathing the air where a person with meningococcal disease has been.


(5) How can I reduce my risk of developing meningococcal disease?

  • The best prevention is through vaccination and healthy habits.

  • Vaccines are now available that help protect against the serogroups (“strains”) of meningococcal disease that are most commonly seen in the U.S (i.e. serogroups B, C and Y).  There are 2 main types of vaccines available:
  1.  Meningococcal conjugate vaccine covers four strains (serogroups A, C, Y and W). It is routinely recommended for 11 to 18 year olds (1st dose at age 11 to 12, with booster at age 16).  If you did not receive this vaccine before college, University Health Services (UHS) recommends contacting your personal physician or UHS about getting it now.

  2. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently licensed two serogroup B meningococcal vaccines for use in people 10 to 25 years of age.


(6) Are meningococcal vaccines available at University Health Services?

  • Yes, UHS carries meningococcal vaccines. Please call to schedule an appointment with a UHS provider (Lindner location: 513-556-2564, Holmes location: 513-584-4457).

  • Menactra® (meningococcal conjugate vaccine). If you have the UC student health insurance plan, this vaccine is covered.  If you have private insurance, please check with your individual plan regarding benefits. The vaccination costs $120 (subject to change) if you choose to pay yourself.

  • Bexsero® (serogroup B meningococcal vaccine). If you have the UC student health insurance plan, this vaccine is covered for ages 10-25.  If you have private insurance, please check with your individual plan regarding benefits. The vaccination costs $170 per dose (subject to change) if you choose to pay yourself.  The second dose is given one month after the first dose.


(Adapted from information from CDC and ODH)

  Date Updated:  May 13, 2015

  University Health Services, University of Cincinnati