Meningococcal disease is a serious, potentially fatal infection that most often causes severe swelling of the tissue around the brain and spinal cord (meningitis) or a serious blood infection (meningococcemia).

Meningococcal meningitis is when the brain and spinal cord swelling is caused by the Neisseria menigitidis bacteria. Of these bacteria, Type B causes approximately 38 percent of the cases in Oregon and is the cause of the outbreak during winter 2015 at the University of Oregon.

While there are no current cases of meningococcal disease at OSU or in Benton County, the best defense is getting vaccinated.

New Vaccine Requirement to Enter OSU

Beginning Fall Term 2015, all new students under age 21 must have the quadrivalent meningococcal vaccine (MCV4) or verify that it has been received within the past five years. New students are encouraged to satisfy all of their immunization requirements before arriving at OSU.

Vaccines Available at Student Health

In addition to the quadrivalent vaccine, there is also a new Type B vaccine available that covers a strain of the bacteria that is not included in the standard 4-strain vaccine. The Type B vaccine is not required at this time, but receiving both vaccines is recommended for full protection, especially for those under age 25 who live in residence halls, fraternities, and sororities. Student Health carries Bexsero®, which is a two-dose series, one month apart, and costs $145/dose. (There is a second brand of Type B vaccine - Trumenba® - which is a three-dose series. At this time SHS is administering only Bexsero.)

Students currently enrolled may come to Student Health Services to receive the both the quadrivalent and Type B vaccines. Students should check with their insurance company to see if the cost will be covered. The charges can also be billed to students’ accounts. Call Student Health Services at 541-737-2724 for more information.

Symptoms of Meningococcal Disease

Early symptoms may be difficult to distinguish from the flu or an upper respiratory infection, or symptoms may appear suddenly and progress rapidly.

If symptoms occur, the patient should not hesitate to contact their health care provider or go to the emergency room for sudden severe symptoms.

  • Fever
  • Rash (purpura often appears as flat, dark purple spots on arms, legs, then torso)
  • Severe headache
  • Nausea and/or vomiting
  • Feeling very drowsy or weak
  • Stiff neck
  • Confusion

How Meningococcal Disease Spreads

The bacteria spread through the exchange of respiratory secretions during close, direct contact with an infected person for several hours. Other factors that increase risk:  first-year college students living in residence halls, college students living in group settings (such as fraternities and sororities), military recruits, those who lack a spleen or have certain immune disorders.

How to Reduce the Spread of Meningococcal Disease

  • Get vaccinated
  • Do not share:
    • Cups, water bottles, or eating utensils
    • Toothbrushes
    • Make-up or lip balm
    • Cigarettes, e-cigarettes, pipes, or hookah
  • Do not drink from a common punchbowl
  • Know that kissing poses a risk
  • Cover your cough (coughing and spitting can transmit the bacteria)
  • Wash hands often with soap and water, or use hand sanitizer

Please call Student Health at 541-737-2724 for information about vaccine availability or other questions.

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention - www.cdc.gov/meningitis/index.html