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Minnesota State University, Mankato
Minnesota State University, Mankato


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The Disease

  • Invasive meningococcal disease occurs in three common clinical forms: meningitis (49% of cases), blood infection (33%) and pneumonia (9%); other forms account for the remainder (9%) of the cases.
  • Symptoms of meningococcal disease often resemble those of the flu or other minor febrile illness, making it sometimes difficult to diagnose, and may include high fever, severe headache, stiff neck, rash, nausea, vomiting, fatigue, and confusion. Onset can be abrupt and course of disease rapid.
  • Meningococcal disease strikes up to 3,000 Americans, killing 300 people a year. Ten to 12% of people with meningococcal disease die, and among survivors, up to 15% may experience serious effects including deafness, brain damage, or limb amputation.


  • Rates are highest in infancy with second peak in adolescence, specifically around 18 years of age.
  • Annually, 1,400–2,800 cases of invasive meningococcal disease occur in the U.S.
    • 20% of cases occurs among adolescents and young adults ages 14–24
    • 16% of cases occurs among infants under 1 year of age
  • College freshmen living in residence halls are at higher risk than general population of similar age.
  • Most cases are sporadic (97%); only a small percentage (3%) is associated with outbreaks.
  • Disease is seasonal, with cases peaking in December and January.

Causative Bacteria

  • Meningococci are carried only by humans in the nasopharynx–their only reservoir
    • Overall 5%-10% of the population carries the bacteria
    • Adolescents and young adults have the highest carriage rates
    • Few carriers develop the disease
  • Transmission occurs when close, face-to-face contact permits the exchange of salivary secretions from people who are ill or are carriers. For example, bacteria can be transmitted when individuals share beverages or cough/sneeze.
  • Worldwide, the vast majority of disease is caused by 5 serogroups (A, B, C, Y, W-135) of the bacterium.
  • In the United States, almost all cases are caused by serogroups B, C and Y; there is currently no licensed vaccine that protects against Serogroup B in the U.S.

The Vaccine

Licensed in the United States in January 2005 for persons 11–55 years of age

  • The vaccine is available at Minnesota State University Student Health Services, call for appointment: 507-389-6276
  • Covers Serogroups A, C, Y and W- 135.
  • In persons 15 to 24 years of age, 70 to 80 percent of cases are caused by potentially vaccinepreventable strains.
  • Cost of vaccine normally ranges from $90-$100.