Meningococcal disease seems to cluster in young people who come into close contact, such as college students living in dorms.
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By Sue Hubbard, M.D.
There’s been another outbreak of the meningococcal disease among college students, this time at the University of Oregon. If you remember, a year or so ago, there was an outbreak at Princeton University and another at the University of California-Santa Barbara.
The meningococcal bacteria may cause a serious blood infection, meningitis, or in some cases both diseases, and may even be fatal.
Meningococcal disease seems to cluster in adolescents who come into close contact with one another, such as on college campuses with students living in dorms and other residence halls. The bacteria is spread via respiratory droplets which can occur when coming into close contact with an infected person, such as a roommate.
The latest cases of meningococcal disease in Oregon have been due to Serogroup B infection, which caused the outbreaks at the other universities, as well. Most colleges require that students receive a meningococcal vaccine against Serogroups A, C, W, and Y (Menactra, Menveo), but until recently there had not been a vaccine against Type B disease.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration recently approved two vaccines against serogroup B: Trumenba and Bexsero. These vaccines were given to thousands of students at Princeton and UCSB during the previous outbreaks, even before they were approved by the FDA, as they’ve been well studied and were already being used in Europe.
Although these vaccines are not yet routinely recommended in the United States, in certain situations, such as for people who are immunocompromised, or during an outbreak such as the one at the University of Oregon, the vaccine may be recommended.
You can see the guidelines for vaccine recommendations on the website of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The early symptoms of the disease often mimic the flu with fever, body aches, headache, nausea, but quickly progress to have far more serious problems. As a pediatrician who takes care of a lot of college students (and who saw a case of Serogroup B disease several years ago), I’m always on the alert.
Dr. Sue Hubbard is an award-winning pediatrician, medical editor and media host. “The Kid’s Doctor” TV feature can be seen on more than 90 stations across the U.S. Submit questions at http://www.kidsdr.com. The Kid’s Doctor e-book, “Tattoos to Texting: Parenting Today’s Teen,” is now available from Amazon and other e-book vendors.
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This column was printed in the May 3, 2015 - May 16, 2015 edition.