Get Vaccinated for Meningitis
Last updated/reviewed: 6/23/24
What is Menigitis?
This form of meningitis is spread through saliva and spit and typically occurs during close (coughing or kissing) or lengthy (living together) contact. Bacterial meningitis is not as contagious as COVID-19, the common cold or the flu, since it is not spread by casual contact.
Two types of meningococcal vaccine are available. One type protects against serogroups A, C, W, Y. Other vaccines protect against serogroup B (MenB), the one responsible for most new cases of the disease.
Due to a recent case of meningococcal disease on campus, we are asking you to review your vaccination status. We strongly recommend that students receive at least two doses of the MenB vaccine (Trumenba or Bexsero), particularly those who live in a dorm or fraternity/sorority house.
- If you have not received a MenB vaccine or require an additional dose, getting fully vaccinated offers the best way to protect against meningococcal meningitis.
- MenB vaccines are available at Campus Health, pharmacies, and many local doctor’s offices.
For Questions or to Make an Appointment:
- Campus Health: 520-621-9202
- Pima County Health Department:520-724-7797
Frequently Asked Questions
The term meningitis refers to an infection of the outer surface of the brain, and can be caused by a number of different bacteria and viruses. College students who live in residence halls or similar kinds of living arrangements (e.g. a fraternity or sorority house) are slightly more at risk for a particular type of bacterial meningitis known as meningococcal meningitis. Although rare, it can be fatal in a minority of cases. Fortunately, vaccines are available which can further lower your risk.
The UA is not requiring the vaccines against meningococcal meningitis, but strongly recommending that any student who will be living in university (dorms) or Greek system (fraternity or sorority) housing get vaccinated to protect themselves.
Many health insurance plans cover the vaccines that protect against meningococcal meningitis. These typically include plans by Aetna, Blue Cross/Blue Shield, United Healthcare, and Cigna - the four commercial health insurance carriers that Campus Health contracts with. Check with your individual insurance plan for details.
College students, particularly freshmen living in residence halls, are at "modestly increased risk". The overall risk of meningococcal meningitis among college students is low, and therefore the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) has not recommended routine vaccination of all college students. However, in February 2005, after reviewing data related to a new meningitis vaccine, the ACIP recommended that college freshmen living in dormitories receive the meningococcal meningitis vaccine.
In the United States, most cases are caused by three strains of Neisseria meningitidis (the bacteria that causes meningococcal meningitis and meningococcal disease). These three strains are called serogroups B, C, and Y.
Separate vaccines protect against serogroups A, C, W and Y (MenACWY) and serogroup B (MenB).
The CDC recommends:
Routine MenACWY vaccination for:
- All preteens and teens at 11 to 12 years old with a booster dose at 16 years old
- Children and adults at increased risk for meningococcal disease
Routine MenB vaccination for:
- People 10 years or older at increased risk for meningococcal disease
The vaccines that protect against meningococcal disease are available at Campus Health. Currently enrolled students can call our immunization clinic at 520-621-2292 to schedule an appointment.
Most individuals need two doses of a MenACWY vaccine and two doses of a MenB vaccine to ensure adequate protection.
The older polysaccharide vaccine (Menomune) provides protection for approximately three to five years. The newer conjugate vaccines against strains A,C,W & Y, (Menactra or Menveo) may provide immunity for up to five years or longer and may prevent a carrier state. It is unknown at this time how long the immunity from the new Meningococcal Serogroup B vaccines will last.
Seven to ten days are required following vaccination before protective levels of antibodies are reached.
The most common symptoms include:
- Stiff neck
There are often additional symptoms, such as
- Photophobia (eyes being more sensitive to light)
- Altered mental status (confusion)
The bacteria that cause meningococcal meningitis (Neisseria meningitidi) are spread through the exchange of respiratory and throat secretions like saliva or spit (e.g. living in close quarters, kissing). These bacteria are not as contagious as germs that cause COVID-19, the common cold or the flu. They are not spread by casual contact or by simply breathing the air where a person with meningococcal disease has been.
Rates of meningococcal disease have declined in the United States since the 1990s and remain low today. In 2019, there were about 371 total cases of meningococcal disease reported. While anyone can get meningococcal disease, adolescents and college-aged adults are at increased risk.
Practice good hygiene to reduce your risk. Avoid sharing the following: smoking materials (vape, cigarettes, hookahs, etc.), food and drink, eating utensils, cosmetics, and toothbrushes. Kissing and direct exposure to saliva through coughing or sneezing can also spread meningococcal meningitis, so practice coughing and sneezing in your sleeve and encourage others to do the same.