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Meningococcal Meningitis

IMPORTANT NOTE: All new students, regardless of classification, must provide documentation of meningococcal vaccination. This is a Texas State law. This also applies to students who have missed a semester of enrollment and are returning. Vaccination must be within the past 5 years and must occur 10 days or more in advance of orientation week (or planned on-campus arrival date). A student who is delinquent in this requirement will not be permitted to enroll. More information on the law (including exemptions to immunization requirements) can be found at the Texas Department of State Health Services website   .  The vaccine is available at local pharmacies and clinics for approximately $130-$160.

What is Meningitis?

Meningococcal meningitis is a form of bacterial meningitis (an infection of the lining surrounding the brain and spinal cord) caused by the bacterium Neisseria meningitidis. There are approximately 1400-2800 cases of meningococcal meningitis in the US each year. Despite the fact that this illness can be treated with antibiotics, the fatality rate--even with rapid intervention--is approximately 15%. Additionally, up to 20% of survivors have permanent sequelae (e.g., neurological disability).


Symptoms of meningococcal meningitis include:

  • fever
  • severe headache
  • neck stiffness

This may develop over several hours or take 1 to 2 days. Additional symptoms may include nausea/vomiting, confusion, or seizures.

More information is available on the meningococcal disease.

Freshmen and Meningitis

In the US it has been demonstrated that freshmen living in on-campus housing are at higher risk of contracting meningococcal disease than other students. (Approximately 5 cases per 100,000 students per year vs. a baseline rate of approximately 1 case per 100,000 per year.) Other at risk groups include military recruits, travelers to areas in which meningococcal disease is hyperendemic or epidemic, microbiologists who are routinely exposed to isolates of Neisseria meningitidis, patients with anatomic or functional asplenia, and patients with terminal complement deficiency.

Additional risk factors include:

  • Smoking (active and passive)
  • Recent upper respiratory illness
  • Corticosteroid use
  • New residence
  • New school
  • Household crowding

During outbreaks, recent alcohol use and bar patronage have also been shown to increase risk of contracting the disease.


A vaccine is available. Menactra (tm) is a tetravalent, polysaccharide-protein conjugate vaccine and it provides protection for 4 out of the 5 serogroups (types) of meningococcal meningitis (serogroups A,C,Y,W-135). Serogroup B meningococcal meningitis accounts for about one-third of cases but there is no vaccine yet for this serogroup. Therefore the current vaccine provides coverage for approximately two-thirds of annual cases seen. The vaccine is very safe, with redness and pain at the site of injection being the most frequent adverse reaction.

More information on the law (including exemptions to immunization requirements) can be found at the Texas Department of State Health Services website   .