Meningococcal disease is the major cause of bacterial meningitis in children 2-18 years old in the United States. Meningitis is an infection of the brain and spinal cord that can spread throughout the body. The Centers for Disease Control reports approximately 2,600 cases of meningococcal
disease each year. If you get meningococcal disease, you have a 10 to 15% chance that you will die from it and another 10% chance that you will lose an arm or a leg, develop kidney failure, brain damage, deafness, seizures, or a stroke.
The risk of meningococcal disease is slightly higher in college freshmen living in dormitories with a risk of 5.4 cases for every 100,000 students. Though the risk is small, the consequences can be severe. Meningococcal vaccine is 85 to 100% effective in preventing meningococcal disease for serotypes A and C. It does not protect against serotype B, which can cause one third of cases. Thus, the vaccine is effective in preventing many but not all cases of meningococcal disease.
Should there be an outbreak of meningitis on the UMW campus, you should contact your health care provider whether you had the vaccine or not. Your risk of getting the disease yourself will be much lower if you received the vaccine but if you been closely exposed you may need to take an antibiotic for further protection.
You may receive the vaccine through your private health care provider, health department, or at the UMW Student Health Center.