The ongoing serogroup B meningococcal disease outbreak at Princeton University and recent bacterial meningitis outbreak at UC Santa Barbara brings national attention to an issue of longstanding importance to the college health community. The dramatic decline in cases of meningococcal disease since the late 1990s coincides with the widespread use of the quadrivalent meningococcal vaccine in adolescents and students entering college. 

In short, meningococcal meningitis is inflammation of the lining around the brain and spinal cord that is caused by a very serious bacterial infection. This infection can lead to brain damage, hearing loss, learning disabilities, and even death. In addition to death, other types of meningococcal disease can lead to loss of an arm or leg.

Meningococcus bacteria are spread through the exchange of respiratory and throat secretions (from coughing or kissing). Although it can be very serious, meningococcal disease can be treated with antibiotics that can prevent severe illness and reduce the spread of infection from person to person. Quick medical attention is extremely important if meningococcal disease is suspected.

Outbreaks of serogroup B meningococcal disease are rare. Since the first case last spring, Princeton officials have collaborated diligently with local and state public health officials and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). After the third case (which defines an outbreak), CDC initiated discussions with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for permission to acquire Bexsero, the serogroup B meningococcal vaccine that is licensed in Europe and Australia, to be made available for this specific outbreak. Cases of meningococcal disease are reportable in every state, and no spread of serogroup B meningococcal disease beyond the Princeton campus has occurred or is expected. 

It is well known that the close quarters of campus residence hall living puts students at increased risk for meningococcal disease. There are ways, however, to reduce risk: 

  • The quadrivalent meningococcal vaccine, although not required at CSUMB, is highly recommended for all students entering college. If a student was vaccinated prior to age 16, a booster dose is also recommended. The CSUMB Campus Health Center has vaccinations available. Please contact us at 831-582-3965 for more information. 
  • Practice good hygiene measures, such as not smoking, avoiding secondhand smoke, and not sharing drinking and eating utensils and other items that have contacted saliva.
  • Maintain healthy habits such as getting plenty of rest, not coming in close contact with people who are sick, and keeping up to date with recommended immunizations.
  • Be aware of the early signs of disease and the need for quick treatment and prompt notification of local public health officials for a suspected case, allowing prompt post-exposure antibiotic prophylaxis. 

More information about meningitis can be found at the following sites:

We encourage you to follow ongoing updates from the CDC on their meningococcal Disease page at: