Meningococcal disease is serious and can be fatal, though 90%-95% of the people it infects recover with antibiotic therapy. Although Oregon's meningococcal disease rates remain above the national average, it is still uncommon here. Case rates have been declining ever since 1994, when 136 cases were reported statewide. Meningococcal vaccine
is effective against four serogroups (A, C, Y, and W-135) of Neisseria meningitidis
, the bacterium that causes meningococcal disease. Unfortunately, most cases of meningococcal disease in Oregon are caused by serogroup B, a strain not covered by the vaccine. This means that the vaccine will not prevent most of our cases.
This is true for college students, too, among whom the disease is rare. A total of six cases occurred in Oregon college students between 1993 and 1999, or about 0.7 cases per 100,000 college students per year — less than the statewide average. Of these six cases, three were caused by serogroup B, and so were not vaccine-preventable. The risk of vaccine-preventable meningococcal disease, is, therefore, low among Oregon college students. The cost of the vaccine is high — about $70 per dose. College freshmen who want to reduce their already low risk can consider getting meningococcal vaccine if they think it is worth the cost.
Meningococcal disease is not
highly contagious. Close contacts of cases (household members, day-care-center classroom contacts, close friends) are at elevated risk of disease; after a case occurs, these persons should take antibiotics to prevent the infection. School classmates, those living in other dormitory rooms, and health-care workers attending the case are generally not
at elevated risk.