Meningococcal Disease


Meningococcal Disease? What is it? What’s it got to do with me?

Meningococcal disease is a rare but serious bacterial infection (not to be confused with a viral infection that can cause viral meningitis) that ocasionally infects college students and others living in relatively isolated, confined communities.

The College Health Service wants students, faculty, and staff to have up-to-date information about this disease and know how to reduce the risk of exposure.

What is Meningococcal Disease?

The infection is caused by an organism called meningococcus, found in nasal and oral secretions. This organism can be transmitted through close personal contact such as:

  • sharing drinking udensils (cups, bottles, glasses, cans, jugs, etc.)
  • sharing the mouthpiece on a musical instrument
  • sneezing or coughing on someone
  • kissing on the lips
  • sharing eating utensils
  • sharing lipstick or chapstick
  • sharing cigarettes, cigars, pipes

Most people who become infected simply carry the organism harmlessly, without illness and eliminate it from the nose and throat within a short time by developing natural immunity. At any one time, up to 10% of the normal population may be found carrying meningococcus without illness or symptoms.

Very rarely, an individual may develop an illness with signs and symptoms of fever, headache, and stiff neck, sometimes with a rash or vomiting, and sometimes with tiredness or change in consciousness.

What can be done to prevent Meningococcal Disease?

Avoid contact with the nasal and oral secretions of others.

Wash your hands often.

Don’t compromise your immune system with heavy consumption of alcohol or other drugs, lack of sleep, and excessive stress.

The American College Health Association recommends that all college students under the age of 30 consider being vaccinated against meningococcal disease. The vaccine offers three to five years’ protection against one of the two strains most prevalent in the U.S.

The vaccine is available at the College Health Center. Call or stop by to talk with a nurse to see if the vaccine is appropriate for you.


Anyone who becomes ill with mild, flu-like symptoms should watch for more severe symptoms such as fever, headache, vomiting, rash, or changes in mental status (confusion). If any of these symptoms develops, do not delay seeking medical attention.Students: The College Health Center (597-2206) is open Monday – Friday 8:30 a.m.-9:00 p.m.; Saturday & Sunday 1 – 8 p.m. when classes are in session.

Employees: Contact your health care provider or go to an emergency room.

For more information, call the College Health Center at 597-2206