Meningitis B: What College-Aged Students Need to Know

students in class

Tuition costs, student loans, and choosing the right major… college students have enough to worry about these days. Yet there’s one thing that might not be on their radar but should be – Meningitis B. In the last five years, meningococcal serogroup B bacteria have caused several outbreaks and isolated cases on U.S. college campuses.

What is Meningitis B?

Meningitis B is a life-threatening illness caused by a bacterial infection of the bloodstream or areas around the brain and spinal cord. The infection can occur so rapidly that within hours it can lead to brain damage, disability, amputations, and death.

Approximately 1,000 people in the U.S. get meningitis each year, with 10% – 15% of those cases being fatal and another 10% – 20% resulting in brain damage or loss of limbs.

What are the Symptoms?

Common symptoms of Meningitis B are:

  • Stiff neck
  • Headache
  • Fever
  • Rash
  • Flu-like symptoms

Why are College Students and Young Adults More Vulnerable to Meningitis B?

Because Meningitis B can spread quickly among those living in close proximity to each other in residence halls and dorm rooms, college students are at a higher risk of contracting the illness. However, all young adults are susceptible to Meningitis B due to their propensity for sharing things like cigarettes, drinks, and lipstick. That is why it is important that all college-age students receive the vaccine whether they are attending university or not.

What can be Done to Prevent Meningitis B?

The CDC recommends that adolescents 16 to 23 years old receive the MenB vaccine, especially if they are living in college dorms. To avoid getting the illness, doctors encourage frequent handwashing and not sharing utensils, drinks, and other items that might be used in close proximity to someone’s mouth.

For more information about Meningitis B and the MenB vaccine, see Indiana Immunization Coalition’s Beware of B campaign.

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