Health officials are urging college students to get vaccinated against meningitis B before they head off to school.
The meningitis B vaccine was approved in 2014 and protects against most B-strains of meningococcal meningitis. These strains account for 50% of all meningitis cases in young adults.
There are currently two brands of meningitis B vaccines — Trumenba® or Bexsero® — and both require 2 doses for full protection. One requires a 3rd dose for people who were exposed in outbreaks, or individuals with vulnerable immune systems.
Outbreaks involving the B strain of meningitis were reported on 5 college campuses between March 2013 and February 2013, including Santa Clara University, the University of Oregon, Providence College, Princeton University, and the University of California (Santa Barbara).
The outbreaks caused 2 deaths, one student lost both feet, and several other students suffered permanent neurological complications.
Meningococcal meningitis is a bacterial disease that spreads very easily in close quarters, especially college dormitories where teenagers are sharing things like cups, utensils, cigarettes, or lipstick.
The disease starts with flu-like symptoms or fever, fatigue, and body aches. Unless it is treated quickly with antibiotics, meningitis can spread to the brain and spinal cord. Meningitis is fatal in about 10-15% of cases and it often causes brain damage, deafness, or amputations.