Meningitis: Meningococcal Disease
What is meningitis?
Meningitis is an inflammation of the linings of the brain and spinal cord. Cases can be mild if caused by a virus or more severe if caused by bacteria. Meningococcal meningitis is a type of bacterial meningitis that is rare, but can cause serious illness and death. According to CDC data, approximately 1,000 cases of invasive meningococcal disease occur in the USA annually. 20% of these cases are among adolescents and young adults ages 14-24. College freshmen living in dormitories are at higher risk than the general population of a similar age.
How is meningococcal meningitis spread?
Meningococcal disease is spread by close contact with oral or nasal secretions of an infected person, including kissing or sharing items such as eating utensils, drinking glasses or cigarettes. The bacteria cannot live outside the body for more than a few minutes and it is not easily transmitted from an infected person through water, swimming pools, or casual contact in a classroom, dining facility, weight room, training room, or restroom.
What are the symptoms?
The signs and symptoms of meningitis include high fever, neck pain and stiffness, severe headache, mental status changes (confusion, lethargy), vomiting and rash. The initial symptoms resemble the flu. However, because the disease may progress rapidly, students are urged to seek medical care immediately if they experience two or more of these symptoms concurrently.
How serious is meningococcal disease?
Meningococcal disease is very serious. About 10-14% of persons with invasive meningococcal disease die. Of those who recover, up to 19% suffer from some serious after-effect, such as permanent hearing loss, limb loss or brain damage.
What action would be taken if there is a case of meningitis among the student body?
University Health Services (UHS), Tang Center works closely with Berkeley Public Health officials and infectious disease experts to identify campus members at risk and facilitate appropriate follow up.
Should people who had close contact with a person with Bacterial Meningitis be treated?
Yes, people who are household contacts of the sick person or had direct contact with the sick person’s nose and throat secretions will need antibiotics as soon as possible to kill the bacteria and prevent the disease. Students who feel they are at risk due to close contact with an infected person should call the Advice line at (510)643-7197 or come to the Tang Center for evaluation.
Is there a vaccine?
There is a meningococcal vaccine that can be provided for routine prevention. The vaccine is not used for treatment following an exposure and does not protect against every strain of bacterial meningitis. Students may schedule an appointment online or call (510) 643-7177.
Where can I get more information?
Please see Centers for Disease Control (CDC) website on Meningitis.
- Immunization/Travel Clinic: (510) 643-7177 or schedule an appointment online
- Advice Nurse: (510) 643-7197
For Faculty and Staff:
- Please refer questions to your health plan or
primary care provider.
- Immunization/Travel Clinic: (510) 643-7177 (Fee-for-service)
Disclaimer: The information provided here is not intended to diagnose, treat or provide a second opinion on any health problem or disease. It is meant to support, not replace, the relationship that exists between an individual and his/her clinician.
Last reviewed: Summer 2012