Meningococcal Meningitis

Additional information is available on the Student Health Services website as well as the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board's College Vaccine Requirements website.

Note: The Meningococcal vaccination law applies to all students, both degree-seeking and visiting students, including visiting students that are registered for courses that meet on campus that do not carry academic credit.

What is meningococcal meningitis?

Meningococcal meningitis, a form of bacterial meningitis, is a serious, potentially deadly disease that can progress extremely fast. It is an inflammation of the membranes that surround the brain and spinal cord. The bacterium that causes meningococcal meningitis can also infect the blood. Although rare, this disease strikes about 3,000 Americans each year, including 100 to 125 on college campuses, leading to five to 15 deaths among college students every year. There is a treatment, but those who survive may develop severe health problems or disabilities.

What are the symptoms?

  • High Fever
  • Vomiting
  • Stiff Neck
  • Severe Headache
  • Light sensitivity
  • Rash or purple patches on skin
  • Nausea
  • Confusion and sleepiness
  • Seizures

There may be a rash of tiny, red-purple spots caused by bleeding under the skin. These can occur anywhere on the body. The more symptoms, the higher the risk. If these symptoms appear, seek immediate medical attention.

How is meningococcal meningitis diagnosed?

  • Diagnosis is made by a medical provider and is usually based on a combination of clinical symptoms and laboratory results from spinal fluid and blood tests.
  • Early diagnosis and treatment can greatly improve the likelihood of recovery.

How is the disease transmitted?

  • The disease is transmitted when people exchange saliva (such as by kissing or by sharing drinking containers, utensils, cigarettes, toothbrushes, etc.) or come in contact with respiratory or throat secretions.

What increases the risk of getting meningococcal meningitis?

  • Exposure to saliva by sharing cigarettes, water bottles, eating utensils, food, kissing, etc.
  • Living in close conditions (such as sharing a room/suite in a dorm or group home).
  • First-year college students living on campus have approximately a five-fold increased risk versus other students.

What are the possible consequences of the disease?

  • Death (which can occur as quickly as 8 to 24 hours)
  • Permanent brain damage
  • Kidney failure
  • Learning disability
  • Hearing loss, blindness
  • Limb damage (fingers, toes, arms, legs) that requires amputation
  • Gangrene
  • Coma
  • Convulsions

Can the disease be treated?

  • Antibiotic treatment, if received early, may save lives and increase the chance of recovery. However, permanent disability or death can still occur despite early and appropriate treatment.
  • Vaccinations are available and should be considered for:
  • Those living in close quarters; and
  • College students age 25 or younger - especially first-year students
  • Vaccinations are effective against four of the five most common types that cause 70 percent of meningococcal disease in the U.S. (but does not protect against all types of meningococcal meningitis or other forms of bacterial meningitis).
  • Vaccinations take seven to 10 days to become effective, with protection lasting three to five years.
  • The cost of the vaccine varies, so check with your health care provider.
  • Vaccination is very safe - most common side effects are redness and minor pain at injection site for up to two days.
  • Vaccinations are available through Student Health Services located in the Morton L. Rich Health and Wellness Center (ext. 4966) or through a health care provider of your choosing.

How can I find out more information?


  • Vaccinations are available through Student Health Services located in the Morton L. Rich Health and Wellness Center (ext. 4966) or through a health care provider of your choosing.