Hepatitis B/Meningococcal Information

Meningococcal Fact Sheet

Fact:  Bacterial meningitis is very rare--the annual incidence in the United States is 1 case per 100,000 people.  But because meningococcal meningitis can cause grave illness and rapid progress to death, it requires early diagnosis and treatment.  In contrast to viral meningitis, persons who have had intimate contact with a case of bacterial meningitis require prophylactic therapy. 

Fact: This disease is caused by the Meningococcus bacteria, which can also cause meningococcemia.  The bacteria cannot survive outside the body for more than a few minutes.  The disease is spread by intimate person-to-person contact (oral secretions)  – kissing, sharing a drink, living in the same room.  It is not spread through the air. Even persons who shared a drinking glass with a person who had the disease would have only three chances in 1,000 of contracting the disease.

Fact:  Most college students have developed a natural immunity to bacterial meningitis.  Casual contact by those who lived in the same residence hall or corridor, attended class or ate in the same dining hall does not pose an increased risk.

Fact: Meningococcal disease is characterized by the abrupt onset of high fever, chills, nausea, muscle ache, severe headache, a bruise-like rash in the case of meningococcemia and, in the case of meningitis, a rigid neck (as opposed to merely a stiff or sore neck).

Fact:  Viral meningitis is more common than bacterial meningitis and can be spread through the air. Most cases of viral meningitis run a short, uneventful course.  Since the causative agent is a virus, antibiotics are not effective.  Persons who have had contact with a person with viral meningitis do not require any treatment.

Fact: One can reduce the risk of contracting meningococcal disease and other diseases by maximizing the body’s own immune system through a lifestyle that include a balanced, healthy diet, adequate sleep, appropriate exercise and the avoidance of stress.  Avoiding upper respiratory infections and inhalation of tobacco smoke may also help to protect from invasive disease.  Everyone should be sensitive to other public health measures that decrease exposure to oral secretions, such as covering one’s mouth when coughing or sneezing and washing hands after contact with oral secretions.

If you have questions or would like more information, please contact the Student Health Service at (513) 529-3000.

Meningococcal Disease and College Students

Meningococcal disease is a serious illness caused by bacteria. It is the leading cause of bacterial meningitis in children 2-18 years of age in the United States. Meningococcal bacteria can cause meningitis (inflammation of the lining of the brain and spinal cord) or sepsis (an infection of the bloodstream). Symptoms of meningitis include stiff neck, headache, fever, nausea, vomiting, confusion and drowsiness. Symptoms of sepsis include fever, shock and coma. Death from sepsis can occur within 12 hours of the beginning of the illness – meningococcal disease can be a rapid and overwhelming infectious disease. For these reasons, meningococcal infections that occur in childcare centers, elementary schools, high schools and colleges often cause panic in the community. Every year about 2,600 people in the United States are infected with meningococcus. Ten to fifteen percent of these people die, in spite of treatment with antibiotics. Of those who live, another ten percent lose their arms or legs, become deaf, have problems with their nervous systems, become mentally retarded or suffer seizures or strokes.

How do you catch a meningococcal infection?

Usually meningococcal infection is acquired after intimate contact with an infected person. Intimate contact includes kissing, sharing toothbrushes or eating utensils or frequently eating or sleeping in the same dwelling as an infected individual.

Who is at risk?

Anyone can get meningococcal disease, but it is most common in infants less than 1 year of age and in people with certain medical conditions. College freshmen, particularly those who live in dormitories, have a slightly increased risk of getting meningococcal disease. The risk for meningococcal disease among nonfreshman college students is similar to that for the general population; however, the vaccine is safe and effective and therefore can be provided to nonfreshmen undergraduates who want to reduce their risk for meningococcal disease.

What can be done to decrease risk?

The meningococcal vaccine can prevent four types of meningococcal disease. These include two of the three most common types in the United States. Meningococcal vaccine cannot prevent all types of the disease, but it does help to protect people who might become sick if they do not get the vaccine. The vaccine is available through a variety of settings including physician offices and university/college student health centers.

Hepatitis B and College Students

Hepatitis B is a serious disease

Hepatitis B is a virus that affects the liver. It is one of several hepatitis diseases (for example, hepatitis A and hepatitis C) that are caused by different viruses but are similar in that they all attack the liver. The hepatitis B virus (HBV) can cause a short-term (acute) illness that leads to loss of appetite, stomach pain, tiredness, diarrhea, vomiting, jaundice (yellow skin or eyes) and pain in muscles and joints. These symptoms can last for several weeks. It can also cause a long-term (chronic) illness from which people never recover. A person might not look or feel sick, but he or she carries the hepatitis B virus in their blood for the rest of their lives and can infect other people with HBV. Chronic hepatitis B may cause liver damage (cirrhosis), liver cancer and even death. About 1.25 million people in the United States have chronic HBV infection. Each year 80,000 more people, mostly young adults, get infected with HBV and 4,000 to 5,000 people die from chronic hepatitis B.

How do you catch hepatitis B?

HBV virus is spread through contact with blood or other body fluids of an infected  person. You can catch the virus by having unprotected sex, by sharing drug needles or by sharing personal items such as razors and toothbrushes with someone who is infected. Babies of chronic HBV mothers can become infected during birth. Children can be infected through exposure to blood and other body fluids from infected children or adults.

Who is at risk?

Anyone who participates in any of the behaviors listed above is at risk of acquiring hepatitis B.

What can be done?

There are hepatitis B vaccines available that can prevent infection with HBV. Many physicians offer the vaccine to patients seen in their offices. These are the first anti-cancer vaccines, because they can prevent a form of liver cancer that can develop in a person who gets a chronic hepatitis B infection.

What about the vaccine?

A vaccine, like any medicine, is capable of causing serious problems, such as allergic reactions. Most people who get hepatitis B vaccine do not have any problems with it. People who have ever had a life-threatening allergic reaction to baker’s yeast (the kind used to make bread) or to a previous dose of hepatitis B vaccine should not get the vaccine. People who are moderately to severely ill at the time the shot is scheduled should usually wait until they recover before getting the vaccine. Hepatitis B vaccine is very safe and the risk of it causing serious harm is extremely small. Hepatitis is a serious disease and getting the vaccine is safer than getting the disease. College students and their parents should discuss the risks and the benefits of vaccination with their health care providers. For more information about the hepatitis vaccine, access the Vaccine Information Sheet at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Web site http://www.cdc.gov/nip/publications/VIS. If college students decide to be vaccinated against hepatitis B, they (or their parents if they are less than 18 years of age) should contact their health care provider or the university/college student health center where they will be attending to inquire about receiving the vaccine

In February 2005 the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) to the CDC recommended the use of a newly licensed conjugate meningococcal vaccine for vaccination against meningococcal meningitis. The new vaccine was licensed by the US. Food and Drug Administration in January 2005 for use in people 11-55 years of age. This conjugate meningococcal vaccine is effective in preventing the same four types of meningococcal disease as the polysaccharide meningococcal vaccine. Although the need for revaccination with the conjugate meningococcal vaccine has not been determined, antibody levels decline in 6-8 years and if indications still exist for vaccination, revaccination may be considered 6-8 years after receipt of the first dose.

Adapted from CDC publications.