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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.  The vaccine is available at local pharmacies and clinics for approximately $130-$200.

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).

More information is available from the Texas Department of Public Health.


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.

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.


Vaccines are available. Menactra (tm) and Menveo provide 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 and two new vaccines, Trumeba and Bexsero, are now available.