Meningococcal disease is a rare but potentially fatal bacterial infection caused by the bacterium Neisseria meningitidis. The disease is expressed as either meningococcal meningitis, an inflammation of the membranes surround the brain and spinal cord, or meningococcemia, the presence of the bacteria in the blood.
Keeping up to date with recommended immunizations is the best defense against meningococcal disease. Healthy habits like not sharing drinks or food, covering coughs, keeping your hands clean, getting lots of rest, avoiding close contact with people who are sick and staying home when you are ill can help prevent illness and minimize the spread of infections.
Signs & Symptoms
Meningococcal disease signs and symptoms, which are sometimes mistaken for those of flu early in the course of the illness, can include:
- High fever
- Severe headache
- Body aches/joint pain
- Increased sensitivity to light
- Neck pain/stiffness
There is a vaccine for the bacteria that causes meningococcal disease. The meningococcal vaccine that we have here at Student Health covers serogroups A, C, Y, and W135. As with any vaccine, meningococcal vaccines are not 100% effective. This means that even if you have been vaccinated, there is still a chance you can develop a meningococcal infection.
Meningococcal vaccine is recommended for those 21 years old and younger and for those residing in dormitories. Vaccination is also recommended for those with certain medical conditions, including HIV, absence of the spleen, and immunodeficiency. Check the cost list for prices. Meningococcal vaccine is available in the Nurses Clinic.
Meningococcal-B vaccine is only recommended for special circumstances and requires a physician's orders (by appointment). If ordered, this is a series of 3 injections and the cost varies.
Sometimes Neisseria meningitidis bacteria spread to other people who have had close or lengthy contact with a patient with meningococcal disease. People in the same household, roommates, or anyone with direct contact with a patient's oral secretions (saliva) would be considered at increased risk of getting the infection. People who qualify as close contacts of a person with meningococcal disease should receive antibiotics to prevent them from getting the disease. This is known as prophylaxis.
Anyone with signs or symptoms of meningococcal disease should seek medical care immediately. Early treatment of the disease is critical as the infection can quickly become life-threatening. Likewise, if you know you have been in close contact with a person who was diagnosed with meningococcal disease, you should seek medical care to obtain the proper antibiotic treatment.
Students who have questions or concerns about meningitis are urged to contact UC San Diego Student Health Services at (858) 534-3300.
For information about meningococcal disease, visit the